Guatemalan Dance Mask
Late 19- early 20th century.
7.5” tall x 6” x 5”
The Ancient Maya used masks in a variety of ways. Lords would often impersonate gods or supernatural beings by wearing a mask and costume.
The story of the conquest of the K’iche’ Maya is told in the Dance of the Conquest.
The Dance of the Conquest was encouraged, possibly even imposed by Guatemala’s colonial officials and friars, as it painted the outcome of conquest and conversion to Christianity in a positive light. Over time, it has become accepted as tradition, and remains one of Guatemala’s most well-known dances.
Conquest dances are not unique to Guatemala. Mexico has it’s own versions, such as the Danza de la Pluma from Oaxaca. Many aspects of the dance are thought to have been carried over from pre-Conquest times, such as the great feather headdresses seen here. Like in Guatemala, they adapted the dance to be palatable to the conquering Spanish. Many of the characters also overlap between the Dance of the Conquest in Guatemala and those in Mexico.
Masks in Guatemala are used in countless traditional dances and celebrations, many of which are regional, or even specific to a particular village. They continue to be adapted and created for any number of events as tastes and traditions shift. These masks may be early examples of the adoption of the North American Halloween celebration.