Monday, October 19, 2009

Michoacán Masks!

I have never been a major collector of masks...I leave that obsession to my husband, Doug. We have a few at home, which started out on one wall and have now spread throughout most of the house. The family and I have a running joke about Doug's inability to travel to Mexico without bringing home a new mask. He just can't say "no". Some of the collection were gifts or flea market finds...which of course means he is not to blame. Right now we are fortunate to have some "guests" who will be with us for a short while until they find new homes, that is until they're sold. Like the amazing wood mask on the left called La Dualidad (the duality) by master Michoacán mask maker, Felipe Horta Tera of Tocuaro, a pueblo at the edge of Lake Patzcuaro.

The skull mask on the right is also by Horta. I love the beautifully carved owl and the fantastic bone-like finish he was able to create. There is another skull mask shown on my website where you can also find price and ordering information.
Felipe Horta Tera learned wood carving and mask making from his uncle, Juan Horta, who until his death a few years ago was said to be the best mask maker in Tocuaro. Now Felipe is considered the best, and he takes his role as keeper of his pueblo's tradition very seriously.
All the masks are dance or ceremonial masks, part of the rich history and culture of the Purepecha people. These and other masks by Felipe are on exhibit at the Petaluma Arts Center's El Dia de los Muertos show. Felipe frequently is invited to visit the U.S. to exhibit, and has made an annual stop in the San Francisco Bay Area for Dia de los Muertos celebrations. This year his booth will be next to ours on Nov. 1 at the Fruitvale Day of the Dead Festival in Oakland-- please come by to see more masks and other beautiful art from Michoacán. But if you can't get to these Bay Area events, or don't plan on visiting Michoacán any time soon, Felipe's masks can purchased through me.
The guy on the right is the most well-known of Michoacan's dance masks, used regularly whenever the Dance of the Viejitos (little old men) is performed... a show by the way, that is not to be missed. The dancers ranging in age from 5 to 75 with incredible talent and endurance, actually wear these masks while dancing, along with the traditional woven wool gabans or serapes.
Felipe Horta Tera (above left) in his workshop in Tocuaro, Michoacán. And a Dance of the Viejitos performance enjoyed by Mexico By Hand Art and Culture Tour folks at the wonderful folk music peña in Morelia, Colibrí. Tourists can also visit the workshop of Felipe Horta Tera.
For information on the Art and Culture Tour:

More info. on Day of the Dead events:
Fruitvale Day of the Dead


  1. I was wondering what are these masks made out of????

  2. They are made of wood, usually something they call zompantle or colorín.