Prudencio Guzmán Rodríguez
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.
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. . He is constantly researching the history of the Tastoanes.
It is customary for the performers to craft completely new masks each year, some of which are entered into a local contest, known as the Concurso de Máscaras de Tastoanes de Tonalá. Guzmán won first place in the contest when he first competed in it about 20 years ago and since then, he has placed an additional 10 more times as either first, second or third.
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 starts 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.
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