Vintage Viejito Mask
Last 1/2 20th Century
Ht. 8" x W. 7" x D. 6"
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 dance of the Viejito, the dance of the little old men, is performed in many villages throughout Mexico. It was created just after the Spanish conquest to mock the aging Spanish, “who the natives thought looked foolish with their stooped posture, white beards, grey hair, and wrinkled skin.” (Another Face of Mexico by Bill La Vesseur)