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Ceremonial Masks

Dance of the Conquest Mask
Pontius Pilate Mask
Sabarius Mask
Antique Mask From Veracruz
Antique Mexican Mask used in Ceremonial Dance
Antique Pastorela Devil Mask with Serpent
Carved Mexican Bull Mask for Carnival Dance
Mexican Dance Mask
Mexican Dance Mask - Devil

In Latin America there is an enthusiastic ceremonial use of masks expressing the myths, legends, culture and history of its people.  Operating within the ritual festival complexes of both the Pre-Columbian and Christian worlds these masked dances signify a contractual arrangement between the community and the supernatural.  With roots in pre-Hispanic theatrical performances some of the masks produced in the rural areas relate to the natural world where spring rites are performed for fertility, rain and the protection of crops. Good examples of these are the "tigre" or jaguar dances and the Pascola dances.  Hunting ceremonies and funeral and healing rites also used masks that were specific to that culture, village or region.  Propitiation and initiation rites into puberty use masks in traditional dances such as those perfomed by the Cora indigeneous group in the state of Nayarit.  After the Conquest, many of the indigeneous myths and legends were overlaid with Christian beliefs.  Traditionally, the Spanish used masks in their own culture and found them to be a useful tool for converting the peoples of the Americas to Catholicism.  Masks are worn to honor the community´s patron saint, used in the Christian Morality plays, Carnival, Easter, Corpus Christi and Day of the Dead.  Combat dances such as the Moors and the Christians and the Dance of the Conquest were often incorporated into these same festivals.  In many of the dances, the characters of death and the devil are present and depicted wearing an infinite variety of creative masks and costumes.  Masquerading also can be satirical or comedic with commentary on daily life and its complications thus providing entertainment and serving the needs of the local community.  This wide array of original masks are often produced by the same families from generation to generation or can be the creative expression of one individual participating in the dance.  The beautifully sculpted woodcarvings with very refined features and skillfully painted are made by "santeros" or saint carvers while others can be grotesque in form, coloring and expression or crudely carved by a village carver.  Some of the other materials used to make masks are leather, cloth, copper, wax, cardboard, papier mache, rubber tires, metal cans, straw and latex.                        

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