The Amazing Masks of Mexico

From the video Mexico in Your Senses - on this blog
There is a private museum in San Miguel de Allende called Casa de la Cuesta. A collector has over 1000 masks and 600 of them in the museum which is also a part of a B&B. I went there a few days ago (March 5 2018) and was so impressed with the collection, the displays, and the descriptions of the masks heritage. Seeing so many masks in one place was a unique experience. I saw rooms full of masks of all varieties and regions, all looking at me with those painted eyes, those expressions, and the vibes of cultural traditions and mystery behind each one.

from the video Mexico in Your Senses
Mexico is a diverse country of regions, traditions, geography, and has over sixty two languages. It is also a country known for its celebrations, fiestas, and holidays. Masks are used in many or most of these ceremonies and celebrations, and tell a story in themselves relating to pre-conquest traditions, Christian liturgy, occupations, agriculture, and entertainment.

Masks were used up to 1000 years before the conquest, and after, sometimes mocking the Spanish, the devil, and their traditions. The Spanish caught on and used theater and masked dances that were so familiar to the indigenous populations to teach the religious concepts and stories of the Bible and the Catholic events and feast days.

Many celebrations and festivals combine ancient pre-conquest traditions with the Catholic traditions.

The Dias de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is one of the more popular Mexican festivals that has its roots in Aztec traditions and masks are used extensively and are seen in most photos of the event.

The diversity of the types of masks in the museum represents the wide range of uses and traditions. It is a part of Mexico's heritage, still actively in use today, that is not discussed as much as other topics.
 
from the video Mexico in Your Senses
There is a beautiful art book The Other Face of Mexico that was created by the collector, Bill Levasseur. It has full page color photos as well as vivid descriptive information.

One page has a collection of various quotes - here's two ..."Masks serve as symbols and guides in rites of passage and festivals of renewal", "From Paleolithic times to the present, people have used masks to add power and mystery to religion, warfare, and entertainment'"

The book is on a coffee table at the house where I am house sitting in San Miguel de Allende. By reading and scanning through the book I knew that I had to go. It's one of those lesser known treasures that you discover "off the tourist track", and there are so many more. Visits to the private museum are usually by appointment only. The day I called there was an open house, and they also had a rug maker from Oaxaca that was a fourth generation artisan. His samples there were strikingly beautiful.


Another Look at Another Face of Mexico 
Then I looked at the book again after my visit to the museum. Pictured left, Another Face of Mexico (Amazon link here - priced at $97 ) is a masterpiece art book that not only shows the photos of the masks, but how and when they were used, including titles and descriptions of the dances they were used in, and the symbolism of the mask design.

This experience of the museum combined with the book is a prime example of the type of deeper cultural experience that I savor here in Mexico. It's not just about the well known sites filled with tourists. It's about the people here, their rich and diverse heritage, and the hidden gems of their culture such as was "discovered" at the Casa de la Cuesta.

If you have not seen it yet, or even if you have, I strongly recommend viewing this amazing video titled "Mexico in Your Senses. It contains many stunning images, and more than a few with masks, combined in a moving collage of the diverse cultures of Mexico with inspiring music.

It's on the "home page" of this blog...here's the link:
Mexico in Your Senses


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