Tourist mask from Guerrero

Q: I found this mask and thought it was cool. Would love to learn more about it and its meaning. I do know it was made in Mexico. Any information would be appreciated. Chrystle, 1688

A: Tons of these cute masks with animals on their face are sold to tourists in Chilapa, Guerrero. They are also available in the gift shops and markets throughout the rest of the country. Most often the animal is a bat placed over the nose with its wings spread out. Many years ago these crazy looking masks were actually worn by villagers in the Danza de los Murcielagos. I saw one of those old bat masks in the Mexican Museum of Anthropology.

Mexican masks are my favorites. Unlike other serious collectors, about half of my Mexicans are decoratives– a euphemistic term for tourist junk. Why would The Mask Man break the rule of curators and accept fake masks for his walls that include authentic artifacts? It’s because I’ve always loved art and find the indigenous Mexicans one of the most creative cultures in the world. Their folk art can be spectacular… whether it’s used for dance or pleasing tourists. C


  • Chris

    Hey Bob, I like your statement about the decoratives. It is not at all tourist junk, in my opinion, but also an authentic form of art, like a painting, for example. Most mexican decoratives seem to me very particular, and other “fakers” around the world would have a hard time to reproduce them, as they do not know the particular animals, colours, shapes etc that make these decoratives so appealing and “Mexican”.

    however, I nevertheless would refrain from purchaising decoratives – my home is so small that I do not have the space for them. So, better have half of your number of masks, but all authentics 🙂
    Cheers, Chris

  • Sandy9234

    My mask collection includes many Mexican tourist masks, along with ‘serious’ danced masks. I love the carvings, the colors and the imagination and playfulness of theses masks. Even a tourist mask takes many days to carve and paint, and the artist has to think up characters to best fit the shape of the wood. These tourist masks are still considered Folk Art, and I think these masks all complement each other. It amazes me how difficult finding good quality Mexican masks has become, but I haven’t been in Mexico for many years. eBay is often a good source, but the prices are getting very high. I just found this site tonight, and I have ordered your book on Amazon. I look forward to checking back soon.

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