Famous old Mexican tourist mask

Q: Is my silver-plated copper mask as old as it looks? I noticed that when I tried it on and rested my chin on the chin piece, that my nose actually fitted the opening and eyes lined up perfectly. So perhaps it was actually made to be worn? Great earrings hanging cone shaped flowers with stamens inside the flowers and edge of petals gently turned back. One earring is detached and needs to be soldiered back on again. Charles, 1764

A: Some books on Mexican masks say this was used in the “Rain-petitioning dance” in parts of rural Guerrero. These large, flat masks are called Barbones (bearded old men). Made from sheet metal, they required skill and patience to make. For many years tourists and collectors paid lots of money for these fake beauties. Today, because of their interesting history, the Barbones still cost a lot more than most Mexican decoratives. Of course, they were never meant to be worn.

They started making these stunning masks out of silver in the mining town of La Parota, Guerrero, way back in the Victorian period. Well over 100 years ago wealthy Europeans were vacationing in Mexico and they loved these hammered-metal masks as decorative souvenirs. Later they switched from silver to the cheaper copper you see here, and they are still popular to this day. B

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