This antique dance mask hails from Mexico and is an uncommon yet important reference to the Afro-Mexican roots of the country. There are several dances that speak to the Afro-Mexican tradition, and the dances vary from region to region. This particular version belongs to "Danza de Juanegro (or Cuanegros)" which authors Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazón describe in pages 90 and 92 in their 1982 book Máscaras. The dance goes back to the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire of 1519. In the centuries that followed, through the 1800s, it is estimated that 200,000 African slaves were brought to "New Spain" (as the Aztec Empire was referred to by the Spanish). Some of the slaves were brought from Africa directly and others from the Caribbean and other countries that were part of New Spain. In the Juanegro dance, the Spaniard Pañol or el Patrón (the hacienda owner) competes with black foreman Juanegro for the love of a woman who flirts with both. The dance elevates Juanegro and makes fun of the Spaniard. Remember, indigenous peoples--who create and dance the masks--were the first to be subjugated by the Spanish conquerors and occupiers of their lands. Historical documentation shows that indigenous peoples often formed alliances with Black slaves, at times acting as intermediaries with Spanish overlords, given their longer history with the oppressors. And so, in the dance, it does not turn out that the Spaniard wins the love of the woman. In the 1999 book Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of Life: Masks of Mexico, author Barbara Mauldin reports that the desired female avoids marrying the Spaniard, waits for Juanegro to be emancipated, and then elopes with him. This particular Juaneegro mask was "danced," which means it was used in ceremony versus being made for tourists and display. Later on, when the mask was acquired in Mexico by a New Mexico-based collector, a wire was added to the holes where ties would have been used by the wearer; hence it is now a display piece for the wall. This is a museum-quality mask, the kind of indigenous folk art today one can see today in the Santa Fe Museum of International Folk Art and Alexander Girard collections. Over time, many African slaves married within the Mexican population, although some Black communities were created. One in particular--Yanga, in the state of Veracruz (where many slaves were brought into Mexico)--is named for Gaspar Yanga, a slave in the plantain area of Orizaba from 1540 to 1579. Yanga escaped the plantation and over time founded a "palenque" or settlement, mostly made up of other escaped slaves. The Spaniards declared war against Yanga and his army, but after losing, the Spaniards declared them to be free. Yanga demanded land for the settlement, which was granted and eventually became a municipality. Yanga which is the first community of free blacks in the Americas. In 1992, the Mexican government officially recognized African culture as being one of the three major influences on the culture of Mexico, the others being Spanish and Indigenous. Masks like this are powerful evidence of this little-known aspect of history of Blacks in Mexico and the Americas.
This mask measures about 7-3/4" tall by 7" across. When hung on the wall, the mask extends out a little over 4-1/2". Weighs just under one pound. The wood is thick and other than a couple of spots along the edge of the mask (the part that touches the wall) where a surface piece has flaked away, there are no cracks. On the painted surface, there are areas where the paint has rubbed away or perhaps even slightly flaked, but the mask is in very good condition given the age.
Rare and important folk art and history.
Please convo with questions, or call (505) 369-6865. Will return your call as soon as possible.
More folk art: https://romaarellano.com/shop/17770625/latin-world-folk-art
Hacienda decor: https://romaarellano.com/shop/6877927/hacienda-taos-mexico
All items in shop: https://romaarellano.com
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