Mexican masks from
Rob Bryson's mask, collected in a Nahua village in the highlands of Guerrero east of Chilpancingo.
He was told it was used in the Danza de Macho Mulas in the village annually.
The mask has a handle on the back side of the mask under the chin.
I am just wondering if the unusual style is unique to this carver/village.

This page was put together as the result of a question by Rob Bryson in the African Arts and Culture discussion group and I put together some examples
for comparison along with some information on masks from Guerrero.

The mask below is the only mask from Guerrero that had "similarities" to your mask, but I only have one book on Mexican masks that only covers a few
types of examples.
From the book: Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of Life - Masks of Mexico

Teloloapan region, Guerrero (Nahua) I950s-I960s H: 22.5 cm
In the collection of the International Folk Art Museum
Purchased from the Cordry collection

The masked character of the Spanish conqueror Cortes is generally portrayed
with abundant hair, including a mustache and beard. Here the mask maker has
emphasized this even more through relief carving showing swirls in the dark fibers.
From the book: Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of Life - Masks of Mexico

This is a good example of a Christian mask, characterized by fair skin color and
simple mustache and beard. In this mask the lips have been painted red, which
is not always the case for the Christian faces. At some point this mask was
broken into two pieces, perhaps during one of the battle scenes with the Moors.
Twine inserted through tiny holes pulled the pieces back together, allowing the
mask to continue to be used.

Ajuchitlan, Guerrero (Nahua)
Early twentieth century
H: 19 cm
In the collection of the International Folk Art Museum
Purchased from the Cordry collection
Masks of Guerrero

Geurrero has the most prolific masked festival traditions   in  Mexico,   with  a  variety  of dances and mask types. This is due to the large population of
Nahua peoples spread throughout the northern and eastern sections of the state, along with smaller groups of Mixtec, Amuzgo, and Tlapanec. For the
most part, the performances take place on saints' feast days and civic holidays.

A number of the dance dramas are local variations of the Moor and Christian pageant, where Santiago is often a featured character. The Moors wear a
variety of headdress and mask styles, particularly in the villages south and east of Tixtla. Related to these are the conquest dances that tell the story of
Cortes, Spanish soldiers, and priests conquering the Aztecs and other Mexican Indian groups. Other dances, such as Tres Potencias (Three Powers),
Siete Vicios (Seven Vices), and Los Ocho Locos (The Eight Fools), grew out of morality plays introduced by Spanish missionaries, where a war between
good and evil is acted out with masked characters. These types of performances are especially popular in the region around Tixtla and Mochitlan. Other
performances focus primarily on diablos, who duel with one another or other people from the community. Taking a variety of forms, these dances are
found around Tixtla and further east to Tlapa, as well as in towns around the city of Iguala in northern Guerrero. In Teloloapan, southeast of Iguala, the
townspeople celebrate September 16—Independence Day—with the Mojiganga tie los Diatios (Mummery of Devils), wherein townspeople, wearing
extremely elaborate devil masks, compete with one another for prizes.

Many of the masked dances through out the north and eastern sections of the state portray a form of the jaguar, or tigre drama. In one, known as the
Tecuanes (wild beast), the tigre attacks the local animals and, after much activity, is finally killed by a masked farmhand, called a Rastrero (Tracker). A
related pageant features Tlacololeros who represent men clearing their cornfields and burning the brush. A threatening tigre is lurking nearby, but with
the assistance of a dog it is hunted and killed. In the villages of Zitlala and Acatlan costumed man/jaguar figures come from different barrios to perform
fierce fighting competitions said to be petitions for ram. Other types of animal dances are also performed in towns around the Tixtla region featuring a
wide range of characters such as goats, monkeys, rabbits, and pigs.

The Dance of the Pascado (Fish) is popular in some Nahua communities, such as Mochitlan and Quechultenango, to promote good fishing in the rivers
that run through the mountain valleys. Rather than portraying themselves, however, many of the masks represent the professional black-skinned
fishermen from the coast. In some villages this performance is substituted by the Dance of the Caiman (Alligator), where dancers wear alligator and
mermaid structures fastened to their waists. Another popular dance in the Mochitlan region is the Viejos or Huehues (Old Ones), which comically
reminds the community of indigenous traditions and the heritage of past times. Related to this is Los Manueles, a comical pageant involving a village girl
who is falsely betrothed to a bridegroom.

The Nahua village of Atzacoaloya, east of Tixtla, is known for a variety of lively masked pageants, including the Dance of the Snakes with Negritos
wearing elegant clothing adorned with colorful ribbons. Their black papier-mache masks come from a neighboring town. For the most part, Carnival is
not a major festival in the Nahua communities of Guerrero, but the townspeople of Temalacatzingo, located north of Olinala near the border with Puebla,
do celebrate this occasion with maskers who parade and frolic with the crowds. Their wooden masks often have a lacquer finish that is a specialty of the

Tlapaneco peoples, living in towns around Mochitlan and further east, also masquerade, as seen in the judios who appear during Holy Week in
Zapotitlan Tablas wearing wooden masks with grimacing features. In the town of Tlacotepec, Tlapaneco men perform the Danza de los Zopilotes (Turkey
Buzzards) wearing simple masks with long beaks made from either cardboard or pointed hat tops.

The Mixtec villages are primarily located in the southeastern corner of the state along the border with Oaxaca. Many of these communities also have
masked dances, including versions of the tigre hunt drama performed for Carnival.

The Tnonsillo pageant, in Metlatonoc, focuses on ranch life and features a Negrito cowboy in the cast of characters. The Mixtec village of Tototepec is
known for the masked dance of the ya-yashi, or Jicara (gourd bowl), which includes the comical man and woman of the house and a variety of animals,
such as the dog, wild boar, rooster, and parakeet.

The Amuzgo people also live in the southeastern corner of Guerrero and join the Mixtec in celebrating Carnival. In the village of Xochislahuaca they
wear a variety of animal masks and carry around the maclomula, an enormous horse made of wooden sticks. Some of the coastal towns of this region,
such as Cuajiniculapa, have concentrated populations of black people (descendants of the African slaves) who wear striking devil masks as part of their
Day of the Dead festivities.

Most communities in Guerrero have craftsmen who produce masks for the array of dances.
The styles vary greatly from one artist to another,
often making it difficult to classify a Guerrero mask.
Some craftsmen, particularly in the towns of Iguala, Tixtla, and Chapa, also make masks for an
outside commercial market. These are usually slicker and more fantastic than those used m the traditional context.
Since the 1960s this commercial
production has developed into a sizable industry in Guerrero, and due to the rising value of older masks, some craftsmen have
intentionally made their pieces look older to entice unsuspecting buyers.

From the book: Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of Life - Masks of Mexico
The masks below are from different regions, but they had stylistic similarities to Rob's mask so
I included them for comparison.
From the book: Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of Life - Masks of Mexico

This mask style isn't very similar in the materials it was made of to Rob's mask, but the use of
the hair was a similar feature and it is from a neighboring area to Guerrero.

Different types of Mexican and French military groups appear m the Huejotzingo Canival drama
"Battle of the Fifth of May," such as the Serrano, or Mexican highlander, portrayed in this mask.
Although each regiment has its own style of costume, almost all of the masks are made from
molded leather, as seen here. The groups are distinguished by facial painting and the color
and style of eyebrows, mustache, and beards made from animal or human hair.

Made by Carlos Cozano
Huejotzingo, Puebla (Mestizo)
c. 1965
H: 32.5 cm (with beard)
In the collection of the Museum of New Mexico — Gift of Kathleen and Robert Kaupp

(photo right) - Elegantly dressed masquerader participating in the Carnival drama. Huejotzingo.
Puebla (Mestizo), 1987. Photograph by Jim Pieper.
From the book: Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of Life - Masks of Mexico

This is a good example of the Tlamlolero masks worn in Chichihualco, where they vary in color
from black to brown to red. Here the farmers are noted for their large circular headdresses
made of woven pine and decorated with marigolds.
Chichihualco, Guerrero (Nahua)
c. I960
H: 23.8 cm
In the collection of the Museum of New Mexico — Gift of the Girard Foundation
From the book: Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of Life - Masks of Mexico

Although stripped of its paint, this is a beautiful old mask created in a style
traditionally found in the state of Mexico. It is characterized by fine carving in the
eyes, ears, facial details, and texture of the mustache and beard. The top of the
nose and mustache were carved separately and attached, adding to the realistic
shape of the face. The chin and lower lip are a separate hinged piece, allowing
the dancer to move the mouth when he speaks.
Mexico State (Mestizo)
Early twentieth century
H: 25 cm
In the collection of the International Folk Art Museum
Purchased from the Cordry collection
For an affordable, overall great book on Mexican masks with lots of
GREAT field photographs I would highly recommend the book above!

Other books that have been recomended to me are:
Cordry's Mexican Masks
Maschere del Messico
Moya's The Other Face of Mexico
Esser's Behind the Mask in Mexico
"The Mask Monger"
Specializes in masks from Mexico and his website is a good resource.
Rand African Art
home page

Mexican masks
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