As a boy, Prudencio Guzmán Rodríguez was haunted by the mysterious characters known as Tastoanes, who are part of a tradition that spans more than a century, demonstrating events that unfolded during Spain's conquest of Mexico in the municipality of Tonalá where he grew up.

Introduced by Christian friars in the 1500s, the Tastoan festival celebrates the expulsion of the Moors from Spain. In Mexico, Spain’s Conquest over the native
population became part of the dance as the local interpretation evolved.

A skilled craftsman, Guzmán has been immersed in the artisan world since he was a young boy. Both Prudencio's father and grandfather created ceramics in the canelo style, which is characterized by the shades of canela or cinnamon that it produces in the finished pieces. His five brothers continue this tradition. Prudencio has chosen making Tastoan masks as his creative outlet — he believes it is like working with living art and is constantly researching the history of the Tastoanes.

It is customary for the performers to craft completely new masks each year for the annual July 25 Tastoan pageant. Some of the masks are entered in a local judged contest, known as the Concurso de Máscaras de Tastoanes de Tonalá.

Small dots on the surface of the masks symbolize the smallpox disease that the Spanish conquerors brought with them to Mexico.

Sculpted creatures such as snakes, scorpions, spiders or lizards reflect the indigenous warriors who fled the Spanish conquerors and hid in caves — they were discovered dead with the aforementioned animals crawling on their faces.

When crafting a mask, Guzmán starts with a base of vaqueta (cowhide) and begins sculpting the different shapes of the Tastoan's face out of a paper paste. He then paints the piece entirely black and applies colored acrylics over this base coat, using a technique in which he puts the barest amount of paint on the brush and then scrapes the color onto the mask.

The tastoanes wear a special clothing that is commonly known as trousseau, which is made up of:

  • A montera, which is shaped like a jellyfish, is made of a bonnet that is made from a plant known as sotol, on the outside the montera has previously tanned beef tails. There are caps of black and yellow colors, and varied sizes, but it must be taken into account that the shape, size, etc. varies depending on the place. from the mount
  • A mask, which has whiskers on its exterior, also made from beef tails. Most of the masks today are made of different types of wood, but previously they were made from wood taken from the mesquite tree. To decorate the masks, things that are particularly known as "specks" are placed under the nose, which are made of yarn and come in all colors. They also vary according to the place of the tradition
  • Chivarras or chaparreras, which are the ones used by charros, only these are much thicker and more resistant, since they must withstand rain, falls, etc. They are mainly used as protection for the tastoan.
  • Boots and heavy padded jackets keep the dancer safe from the
    blows of the willow stick wielded by one of the Spaniards.

NOTE: Several years ago when the Tastoanes danced at the Feria, one of them fell into the swimming pool with his entire costume on. A round of beer for all the dancers was offered the "swimming" if he would fall in the pool again, so photos could be taken. He was a very good sport as you see by the fact we have the photos of the event.