Three Sinaloan Masks with Tags

This week I am grouping masks by three different Sinaloa carvers, all of which came to me with some identifying information.

I bought the first of these in about 1994, another mask from my friend, Tom Kolaz. I immediately dubbed this Dog faced mask “Snoopy,”™ after the famous George Schulz cartoon character. It was originally collected in the field by Barney Burns and Mahina Drees. Their notation on the back of the mask indicates that the carver was Anacleto Garcia Valenzuela, apparently from San Blas, Sinaloa. I have never seen another mask that was carved by Anacleto, but I have long enjoyed having this mask on my wall.

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Tirso Buitimea

In October 2007 I purchased a pair of Pascola masks from Tom Kolaz, who stated that they had actually been danced together. The carver was Tirso Buitimea, of Capomos, Sinaloa. In contrast to the masks in the last two posts, these are neither basic nor raw in design, but rather they are inventive and sophisticated.

This one was said to represent the face of a bat. In the absence of this information, I would have thought it had the face of a dog.

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Arturo Garcia Gariola (Art G)

In 2010 I purchased 14 masks from Tom Kolaz, 7 by Guadalupe Vadon Ochoa, which we saw last week, and 7 more by “Art G” (Aturo Garcia Gariola), which I will show you today. Both carvers worked in Sinaloa, but the later masks of Guadalupe are plain and utilitarian in their design, while those of Arturo are alarmingly vivid, as you will see, actually shocking when viewed within the Sinaloa Mayo context that we have been surveying. They are also more elaborately carved.

These masks were probably collected directly from the artist by Barney Burns and Mahina Drees in September of 1990, which was 20 years before I bought them from Tom. It was his impression that Arturo and Guadalupe had long since died. The masks by Arturo are mildly soiled on their backs, as if there might have been limited ceremonial use, but all have monofilament hanging lines, which don’t seem appropriate for dance use. Most of the hair bundles were destroyed by insects after the masks were collected by Barney and Mahina.

I was initially put off by the garish nature of this group of masks. Then, when I made the effort to focus on them, one by one and from various angles, I was surprised to discover how much I liked them. I will begin with one of the most vivid masks, although you may well have other nominations for this title.

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Guadalupe Vadon Ochoa II

Last week I displayed some masks by Guadalupe Vadon Ochoa. Today we will examine a few more.

At some time after I had received last week’s masks, I purchased others that seem less refined. I don’t know the reason for this change in his style. It could be that last week’s masks were carved to an individual dancer’s order while this week’s were made for sale, and perhaps to a lower price point.

I do not recall anything about the first of these. Maybe I found it on Ebay™? I believe that this mask represents a monkey. It is slightly more carefully carved than the group of documented masks that follow, so it might seem like a bridge between last week’s masks and these others.

One is impressed by the simplicity of this functional design.

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Guadalupe Vadon Ochoa of Rincon de Aliso, Sinaloa

In 1994 I purchased a trio of Sinaloa Pascola masks from my friend Tom Kolaz. They had been collected together, but none had an identified carver. Two had the faces of goats, and the third, with a feline face, was said to represent a Leon (Mountain Lion). Looking at them now, I believe that the Lion and one of the Goats were carved by Guadalupe Vadon Ochoa, this week’s featured carver, while the third was the work of another highly familiar hand, that of Pablo Pacheco. I was very pleased to obtain these three then anonymous masks, not only because masks from Sinaloa are not commonly available on the market, but also because the Mountain Lion is an unusual subject for a Pascola mask, and the goat by Guadalupe is particularly charming. The Mountain Lion does explicitly appear in Yaqui Deer songs and is then portrayed in dance performance by Yaqui Pascola dancers. I assume that mountain lions also appear in Mayo Pascola dancing, although I have not found a specific reference for this in the Mayo dance literature. In the Unites States we call the Mountain Lion by various additional names—such as Cougar, Panther, Puma, and Catamount.

Here is the Mountain Lion Pascola mask.

The ears on this mask are very similar in style to the horns on an identified mask that appears later in this post.

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Francisco “Poncho” Acacia Estrella

In 1989, Barney Burns and Mahina Drees collected approximately 20 Mayo Pascola masks that had been carved by Francisco “Poncho” Acacia Estrella, who was living at la Divisa, a small town in the Municipio of El Fuerte in Sinaloa. I have no evidence that they bought any other masks by this carver, either in earlier years or later. At any rate, when I photographed their collection in 2016, they still had 16 of Francisco’s masks that they had collected in 1989. All of those masks had been danced. Evidently Tom Kolaz had earlier purchased two of the masks from this group, for when he sold them to me in 1998, those masks still had tags and labels that had been written by Mahina in 1989. In 2001 I bought a third mask by Pancho from the shop at the Arizona State Museum, and it too had a tag and notations in Mahina’s hand. All three of my masks had been danced. Today I will show my trio by this carver, and then I will throw in five more from those that remained in the collection of Barney and Mahina in 2016. Hopefully there are a few more masks by this carver in other hands.

This is one of the pair that I purchased from Tom Kolaz in 1998. It appears to be a Perro (dog) mask. Poncho’s animal Pascola masks are mysterious, as the labels do not identify the animal represented, and one is left to speculate—dog, pig, or mystery animal?

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Mayo Pascola Masks by Justiniano Bacasequa

In the collection of Barney Burns and Mahina Drees there are two Sinaloa Mayo masks that are said to have been carved by Justiano Bacasequa. I have no masks by that carver in my collection, but I do like the classic Rio Fuerte style of this pair.

Here is the first mask by Justiniano. The date of collection was not recorded. We do know that it was danced for 14 years, and at the time of collection Justiniano was 70 years old.

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Mayo Pascola Masks by Rosario Cabanio

I purchased my first Pascola masks in March, 1988. Both were Mayo. These had been collected in Mexico by Roberto Ruiz, and I bought them from Robin and Barbara Cleaver, of Santa Fe, New Mexico. One of these was said to have been carved by Andres Valenzuela, but after my recent study of the Mayo masks in the collection of Barney Burns  and Mahina Drees, I realized that the actual carver was Rosario Cabanio, from Camajoa, Sinaloa. It had been danced for three years. Today I will start with that mask from my collection, following it with four more from the collection of Barney and Mahina.

This is another Sinaloa Pascola mask that retains its original long hair.

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An Additional Sinaloa Mayo Mask

Last week we looked at three old masks from the collection of Barney Burns and Mahina Drees that appear to have been carved by José Mopay, along with one that seemed somewhat newer. Those masks got me thinking about another mask, which is in my collection. Briefly, all five of these masks have an unusually elongated and tapered shape, compared to other Sinaloa Mayo masks.

In 1994 I purchased what appeared to be a very old Sinaloa Mayo mask from the Cavin-Morris Gallery in Manhattan. Although it has a similar shape to the Mopay masks, the top of the mask is flat with rounded corners, rather than softly rounded, although that is not so obvious from the first photo. Also, the back design is different than what one finds on the Mopay masks. I have concluded that my mask and the Mopay masks probably reflect an older Sinaloa tradition that has gone out of fashion. I present it in that spirit, as possible evidence of an earlier local style.

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Mayo Pascola Masks by José Mopay

José Mopay appears to be a  rare example of a Sinaloa Mayo carver whose work is attributed to the early 20th century, rather than the middle of the century or later. Although the names of such early carvers have been frequently forgotten in their communities, in this instance several masks in the collection of Barney Burns and Mahina Drees were said to be quite old, and two of these were said to have been carved by Mopay. All four of today’s masks share an unusual shape, and two share unusual and attractive designs flanking the forehead cross. So it is with great pleasure that I present these masks to you today, and I hope to hear of more examples in your collections.

There is another reason to find these masks exciting. Yaqui masks with goat faces do not appear to date earlier than the late 1930s, goat faced masks don’t seem to ever have been popular among the Mayo Indians of Sonora, but anthropologists such as Jim Griffith have wondered about the possibility that goat faced Pascola masks might have been used much earlier among the Sinaloa Mayo Indians. Mopay’s masks raise this question again.

This mask, which was collected in March, 1991, was said to be 70 years old (as if made c. 1920). The carver was said to be José Mopay of Tenoque Viejo, Sinaloa. It has a dramatic tapering shape.

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