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Description

Devil costume mask. The mask (part a) is decorated with four sets of horns: one painted green, another is natural horn, another is painted red with a white tip, and another is white. The carved tongue hangs out. The eyes have slanted holes cutout so the wearer can see. The outer eye is painted with white dots. The teeth have blackened edges. A large jaguar with bloodshot eyes sticks out where the nose of the face would be. Two smaller jaguars stick out from the sides of the mask. An animal pelt (part b) (possibly deer skin) is attached to the back of the mask as a cape. The face is outlined with fake black fur. The interior is lined with padding and fabric, and a long orange cord is attached to eye hooks.

History Of Use

The entire devil costume normally consists of a long cowhide cloak, a whip, a head covering made from ocelot, deer, or rabbit fur, and a mask carved from the colorin (Erythrina coralloides) tree. The masks are painted and decorated with animal horns. The costumes are worn on September 16th, annually, by various groups of men (and sometimes women). These groups roam the streets scaring the inhabitants of Teloloapan, playing with children, and engaging in seductive sport with young women (handing out flowers, for example). The festival culminates in a whip cracking competition, where the aim is to perform and crack the whip without getting it tangled in the mask. This festival celebrates a guerrilla insurgence that took place in Teloloapan at the time of Mexican Independence (1821). Pedro Ascencio Alquisiras, a local insurgent and collaborator of Vicente Guerrero led a group of rebels against Spanish troops, ultimately gaining a victory that put the viceregal forces to flight. The Devils of Teloloapan festival commemorates an episode in this local history in which the residents of Teloloapan fashioned devil masks for the insurgents, to frighten and beat back the colonial sympathisers.

Specific Techniques

Mask makers in Teloloapan, who use the colorin tree, state that they only use wood from trees that have already fallen, making it a sustainable craft practice.

Narrative

The “Devils of Teloloapan” festival celebrates a national holiday through a local lens, integrating local histories and cultural specificity into mainstream political and historical discourse. In this way, the tradition illustrates the duality inherent in identity building through commemoration. Performing bodies play out the relationship between place and history. This can be viewed as a comfortable manifestation of intercultural dialogue between a peripheral community that forms part of the culturally diverse modern nation. In a sense, the residents of Teloloapan resist dominant national Mexican culture but the kaleidoscope of tradition alongside resistance is not uncomplicated, and that the relationship between community and State is in constant renegotiation. The Teloloapan festivities are based around times of political turmoil in Mexican history, not only the Independence, but also the Mexican Revolution, after which there was renewed interest in the devil tradition. As such, the celebrations can be seen as a necessary transgression from normality or a liberation of repressed forces. The figure of the devil in these displays can also be linked, as it has been in the case of other Latin American festivals (namely the devil traditions among the tin mining community of Oruro and the plantation workers of the Cauca Valley, Colombia) with commodity fetishism and marginality. There, we could posit that the devil anthropomorphises the power of colonialism and becomes the mediator of a clash between two different systems of production and exchange. The Teloloapan festival shows how history and its re-enactment constitutes subtle resistance to mainstream national narratives, even when those narratives (in this case regarding Mexican Independence) are being reinforced.

Item History

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