Danza Negritos - Tetepeltzingo, Oaxaca - 1st half 20th Cent.
Evidence of humans using masks goes back 15,000 years. Masks add power and mystery to rituals. They allow the wearer to release inhibitions, to take on a new identity, to become anonymous. As early as 1,000 BC in highly developed Mesoamerican cultures, dances and rituals involved masked dancers. When the Spanish Catholics first conquered what is now Mexico, they regarded masks as pagan, but they soon realized they could use masks to teach Catholic beliefs and Christian history. Masked dances and rituals are still widely used in villages all over Mexico, making the mask artists important members of the community.
The Negrito Dance, or the Dance of the Little Black Men, is a dance about field workers and a snake bite. The men wearing the black masks are actually the clowns in the dance.