Mexican mask folk art is the Mexican’s traditional way of mask making and its used in various cultural dances and ceremonies. It’s an art that has been embedded in Mexican culture for a long time, even before the Spaniards came. It has been used by evangelists to propagate its teachings of the Catholic beliefs and it continued despite colonial authorities who tried to stop this ancient customs of dance and mask.
Mexican Mask Traditions
Traditional Mexican masks and dancing go hand in hand with mask customs having evolved gradually to take center stage among the cultural attractions in Mexico. From lucha libre wrestlers’ masks to wooden ceremonial masks, it is certainly a symbol that characterizes Mexico’s rich cultural history.
Mexican Masks are commonly made out of wood, or alternatively leather, cardboard, paper mache and fabric (lucha libre). Most Mexican masks give life to and represents Mexico’s ancestors, including native indians, hispanic settlers and religious figures, as well as animals, old men and women and the supernatural including the Devil.
Masks have been an intrinsic part of Mesoamerican traditions for millennia, having played a crucial role in ceremonies, rituals and theatrical performances. High Priests used masks to bring to life deities like the eagle and jungle warriors in an attempt to have their power and strength. They even dressed up like one to make it more symbolic and realistic.
The best traditional Mexican masks are crafted using skilled hands. It’s not a work of a single man alone, but a group of people who specialize in making the masks. This tradition of mask making has been passed from one generation to another with some widows learning from her husband’s artistry. Some mask makers treat this as a part time profession as they work in other fields of interest like baking and carpentry. While most products are intentionally made for dancers, some reach the hands of mask collectors while others serve the tourism sector.
Traditional mask making has greatly undergone innovations. In addition to wood, other types of materials are now used like leather, cloth, wax, fired clay, wire mesh, rubber tires, cardboard, paper mache and metal sheets. Mexico City has been the forerunner of most wax masks where experts make a perfect fit for a truly realistic impersonation.
Traditionally, basic mask tools were used by craftsman, like machetes, blades and knives in addition to supplementary equipments like are pliers, chisels and pumice stone for creating that glossy smooth surface. Masks are often wrapped in plasters to give that ultra glow finish.
After shaping the masks, painting and decorating will come next. Facial features of its users are cut or painted to achieve a perfect fit. Masks go with white layers first then subsequently other colors will be added.
Why not check out our collection of Mexican Masks at Folklore Bazaar so you can see for yourself what we are talking about?