It’s an official holiday that begins a five-day celebration before the Catholic lent begins on Ash Wednesday. We’re talking about food, drink, parades, costumes, music and dancing in the streets.
This particular mask represents a pretty woman called a Mujer and she is from the state of Tlaxcala. The carved-wood mask has glass eyes with lids that move, real jewelry and a gold tooth. She would be portrayed by a boy who could make the Mujer wink at the Paraueros and Charros with whom the young boy/woman is dancing.
It’s very similar to the Catrine masks that also come from Tlaxcala. And there are hundreds of different looking masks being danced around Mexico during Carnaval. You can see many of them in popular books like Mask Arts of Mexico by Lechuga & Sayer, Masks of Mexico by Mauldin, and Masks of the World by Ibold and Yohn.
Not only are there handsome men and pretty women, there are plenty of bad-guy masks worn at the Carnaval celebrations. There are versions of Judas, different kinds of Jews, and the Pharisees. There are plenty of Christ’s persecutors seen during Holy Week, but Jesus himself is never portrayed with a mask.