Mexican Tigre masks from Zitlala, Guerrero

I have always been fascinated with these masks and have been in search of a nice one for years.
I got the mask on this page from Shari Cavin and Randall Morris at the Cavin Morris Gallery in New York, NY

This style of Tigre (Mexican colloquial for Jaguar) mask is from Zitlala, Guerrero, they are used on the feast day of the Holy Cross on May 3rd, 4th,
and 5th. As part of the activities, men from different barrios put on jaguar costumes and carry out fierce fighting competitions that involve beating
each other over the head with knotted rope. Although this is very rugged for the participants, the fighting is considered a crucial aspect in petitioning
the deities for rain during the spring planting season. The impressive masks are made in leather and worn over the head to protect the wearer from
injury. The leather is painted green or yellow, depending on which barrio of town the participant is from.

The celebration of the Holy Cross is a ceremony during which offerings of pain are propitiated. Mountain, roadside and village crosses are adorned
with flowers and various offerings of fruit, bread, poultry, and more. Although this celebration is based in Christianity, the tradition of leaving offerings
in return for miracles or blessings from the god(s) has its roots in pre-hispanic times. In Guerrero, this festival is closely tied to Tlaloc, the rain god.
An important part of the festival in Acatlán centers around the Ahuehuete tree, a sacred tree because anywhere this tree grows water will be found.
The Nahua Guerrerense honor the tree and its spring with a procession and a variety of offerings. Here, the jaguar known as the Tecuane appears.
Richly detailed costumes and masks enhance the drama of the Tecuane fights, a form of propitiation.
"Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of Life - Masks of Mexico" by Barbara Mauldin
Jaguars in fierce combat during the celebration for the feast of the Holy Cross.
Zitlala, Guerrero (Nahua), 1987.

Photo: Ruth D. Lechuga from the book
"Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of Life - Masks of Mexico" by Barbara Mauldin
Tigre Helmet mask # 3, Zitlata, Guerrero

Provenance: Ex Cavin Morris Gallery, New York

20th century

12" x 9" x 10" in  (50.8 x 22.9 x 25.4 cm)
"Jaguar Dance" - by Susan Contreras
"Chicote del Jaguar" - by Susan Contreras
Susan Contreras
Born in Mexico City to a mother who was a portrait painter and a Mexican jeweler father, she moved with her family to Santa Barbara, California when
she was age 5. The family traveled frequently to Mexico where she became fascinated by ceremonies involving masks, such as the Day of the Dead.
It was the bringing together of drama and color, and that combination underlies her paintings.

Susan Contreras' paintings are thrilling. Her palette is Latin-brilliant, paint is applied with ecstatic authority, and the subject matter is the primal,
celebratory power of masks. These paintings seduce with the power of the unknown and the possibility of magical transformation. We can not know
what is behind the masks or what they will release in us. But we can trust, as the artist does, that joy lies in the courage to imagine so exuberantly.
With Contreras, we embrace the unpredictable. Born in Mexico City, 1952. Educated at Santa Fe Institute, University of California at Santa Barbara,
Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME. Married to artist Elias Rivera, lives in Santa Fe.

You can GOOGLE "Susan Contreras artist painter" to see Galleries that carry her work.
The mask below is an example from the
International Folk Art Foundation
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Zitlala, Guerrero (Nahua)
Early twentieth century
H: 28 cm
International Folk Art Foundation, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Purchased from the Cordry collection
From the book "Cordry's Mexican Masks"

Tigre mask, Zitala, Guerrero (Nahua)
Height 26cm, depth 23cm
Leather, wild boar bristles, paint

Fig 55. - This Tigre mask shows one of the many variations of this important animal in Mexican
mask art. A very stout helmet, the mask actually served as armour during the early May fiestas
when the dancers beat each other over the head with knotted rope. Customarily, they have
deepset mirror eyes, which are long lost from this particular Tigre.

This mask is the property of the University of Arizona.
From the book "Cordry's Mexican Masks"

Fig 184 - Mask-making tools. Juan Godinillo demonstrates
the tools used in making a heavy cow leather Tigre mask,
similar to the one in Fig 55 (above)

Zitlala, Guerrere, 1975
The masks below are some examples of these masks from a few online galleries.
15 inches tall. Measures 20 inches tall with stand.
Masks Mexico Item 216
(This mask sold for $1200 at the NY Tribal Arts show in May of 2005)

Cavin Morris Gallery in New York.
The mask below is from a private collection
Example above from
Approx. age: 50 years
More information on the Tigre masks can be found on the site linked below (will open in a new window):

This is the site of the "Maskmonger", check it out of you have an interest in Mexican masks, it's a great site!
Maskmonger has been VERY helpful to me in my quest to learn more about these masks and I appreciate his insight and knowledge!
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
Rand African Art
home page

Mexican masks main page