Lake Patzcuaro Mask Maker

Jorge Sierra Morales

The use of masks in rituals or ceremonies is an ancient human practice across the world; the oldest mask found is 9000 years old. In Mesoamerican cultures the use of masks dates from 3000 years ago.  In Mexico, evidence of mask making in the country extends for thousands of years and was a well-established part of ritual life when the Spaniards arrived. In the early colonial period, evangelists took advantage of native customs of dance and mask to teach the Catholic faith.  After Independence, mask and dance traditions showed a syncretism and mask traditions have continued to evolve into new forms, depicting Mexico's history and newer forms of popular culture such as lucha libre. Most traditional masks are made of wood.  Common depictions in masks include Europeans (Spanish, French, hacienda owners, etc.), Afro-Mexicans, old men and women, animals, and the fantastic/supernatural, especially demons/the Devil.

Jorge Sierra Morales, Master Mask Maker, from the Lake Patzcuaro area, in the state of Michoacan.  He began learning to make masks from his grandfather at the age of 8 and after 20 years Jorge has perfected his art.  His one of a kind masks are based on traditional masks and are made of the Copal tree.  His masks vary from the devils, demons, animals and Satan himself. These vary from near normal human faces to those with wild and/or grotesque features, with human features, animal features or both. Depictions of old pre Hispanic gods remain in masks. Tlaloc was commonly depicted as having serpents around his eyes and with the fangs of a viper. These elements can be found in devil masks today. Tezcatlipoca was a night god, whose colors were black and red. These are also applied to devil masks.