Online Exhibit - Mexican Masks

Mask making is a part of Mexican ritual life that pre-dates the arrival of the Spanish. Masks in Mexico are used in a wide variety of dances, ceremonies, festivals and theatre, but the most common uses are with traditional dances. In these dances, non-professional performers wear masks to transform themselves into other beings or characters. While most traditional masks are made of wood, they may also be made from leather, wax, cardboard, papier-mâché and other materials. Most masks are scaled to fit the human face, with dancers looking out of slits just above the painted eyes.

The masks in this exhibit represent a variety of the types of masks created in Mexico.

Devil Mask

Devil masks vary from depicting near normal human faces to those with animal and/or grotesque features. The masks are traditionally used in various dances and representations during Christmastime and may use serpents and lizards as allusions to elements of pre-Hispanic Gods. Devil masks are mainly found in the Mexican states of Guerrero, Michoacan and Colima.

Skull Mask

Skull masks have their origins in the pre-Hispanic period. The depiction of death in pre-Hispanic Mexico was not fearful but rather a part of life. Skull masks can be basic white or with fanciful decorations; while some are serious, others may be depicted laughing.

Huichol Mask

The Huichol Mask comes from the Huichol, Native Mexicans living in the Sierra Madre Occidental Range in Mexico. The Huichol Mask, also known as a “kuka”, is a three dimensional ceremonial mask decorated by beading. Huichols create the masks by covering the masks with bees wax then impressing colorful seed beads (chaquiras) into the wax, creating intricate designs.

Monkey Mask

Many indigenous groups in Mexico and Guatemala use monkey and other animal masks in the performance of dances and pageants that reenact religious and mythological themes. These themes originated in Pre-Hispanic times when masks were buried with the dead, suggesting they had a transformational function and meaning.

Skull mask
Devil mask with 2 snakes, horns
Male / female mask owl and lizards on top
Eagle Warrior mask
Small devil mask with green lizard
Small black devil mask with bird
Small devil mask with skeleton
Large black skull mask with flowers
Blue Devil mask with purple toad and 2 snakes
Huichol mask
Devil Mask w/ two serpents and owl
Monkey mask with flowers and earrings
"Good Times / Bad Times" Mask