Mexico

Tigre mask from Olinala, Guerrero

Q: Here I am again. The last time I had a mystery mask, you were stumped. I now have a more obvious one. It’s a Mexican tiger mask witch I paid 37.50 Euros for it. Is it made for the tourists? Height is 25cm. Thank you in advance. Roosje, 1574

A: In Mexico, Tigre means Jaguar. These large cats once occupied the entire country, but are now almost extinct. The Aztecs wore masks like this, and the masks are used in various places for dances and celebrations. In Olinala, Guerrero, they still wear the Tigre masks while dancing down the street carrying bundles of farm produce. This is part of the festival of St. Francis.

You can see an identical mask on page 128 of Masks of the World by Ibold and Yohn. This 204-page book shows more masks that anything ever published.

Please note that this mask could be used for the festival, but others are sold to tourists and exporters. They are all the same. The collector’s preference for “authentic” masks often does not make sense in Mexico because there is no difference between authentic and fake.

I’ve heard that sellers will have the masks like this one briefly danced so they can tell customers that the mask has been used by a villager. That can double the price. Never the less, this mask can be authentic if it wants to be. A-

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