South America

Rich masquerade in the Andes

Andes Mountains costume
Andes Mountains costume

Q: I would really appreciate your help identifying the mystery mask and costume.  I bought these for $100 total from a guy who said they were from Peru.  The back is as fancy as the front.  I see some Ecuadorian (Diablo Umo-type) characteristics here, but I admit this thing is a total mystery to me.  Nothing I’ve seen or read about remotely resembles it.  Any ideas?  Aaron, 578

A: Peru sounds right to me. All of the Quechua-speaking cultures that stretch from the mountains of Colombia, thru Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.are heavily into decorative masquerade. Of course, there are differences in the masks and costumes as you go through 2000 miles of the Andes. I have not seen this particular costume before but it’s not that much different from what you would see at carnaval in Ecuador or Bolivia. It is

a great find. You continue to amaze me. And remember to let me know when you see something you don’t need.  A


  • deborah everett

    I disagree. I think it is from Bolivia — partly because of the little squarish face with snakes radiating from it, which is straight out of Tiahuancu (an ancient culture and ruin in Bolivia, which Bolivians, and particularly the Aymara people, identify with deeply). Also, on the sleeves, is a figure in profile with projections from his head that almost constitute a crown — he is the ‘running man’ figure that is also depicted on structures in Tiahuanacu, and I don’t believe either of these icons appear anywhere in Peruvian culture or ruins (which mostly relate to Inca/present-day Quechua people). Someday you should go to Carnaval in Oruro, Bolivia — it is absolutely spectacular, and I have a feeling this is a traditional costume that was “adapted” for Carnaval. Also – I just noticed the kantuta blooms in the center of the heart shape – that is the national flower of Bolivia.

  • Alena Cieszko

    It may be Aya Uma from the Inti Raymi festival in Otavalo, Ecuador. The twelve stalks with starbursts on top could be his 12 horns of myth.

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