jeronimo López Cruz & Ernestina Sánchez Méndez
Jeronimo López Cruz makes masks with his mother Antonia Rodríguez Sánchez. Originally, the masks were used in the carnival of Sibaca. The artisans had stopped making the masks in the 1970s, however, Antonia's father-in-law restarted the tradition and taught his sons and daughters how to make the ceremonial masks. His family is the only one that currently keeps this tradition alive. Leather masks made for dances are at great risk of being forgotten.
Don Gerónimo López Méndez, Victor's grandfather, remembers the festivals fondly. As a child, he would climb a tree near the church in the plaza and sit for hours watching the dances and admiring the masks. They fascinated him and he learned how to make them. After the 1970s, he and his family were the only ones who knew the secrets to making these unique dance masks. He taught his son and his daughters, Josefina and Petrona, as well as his daughter-in-law, Antonia Rodríguez Sánchez, to perform them.
The masks are made from cow hides, which have been cured in salt, and the designs burned into the hair. Horse hair is used to decorate them. The designs on the face are inspired by the flora and fauna of their surroundings, but also bear some resemblance to African masks. We have not been able to get information on who the masks represent, nor what the dances are about, but these primitive masks are fascinating and do not seem to be related to any other mask in Chiapas.
The women of the village also make rag dolls and Antonia took the initiative to teach her how to make clay dolls and toys. In 2019, Antonia won second place in the Fray Bartolome Toy Contest with a pair of dolls, her midwife and her mother. Antonia is a very talented mask maker. She knows how to buy the skins, dry them (six months), and draw the pattern of the mask they want to create. The masks are decorated with drawings inspired by nature: trees, flowers and animals. They are unique in that her masks are reminiscent of African style masks.
Antonia also taught herself how to work with clay and make traditionally indigenous dolls and games. The dolls have also won many awards in the state Fray Bartolome competition. She and her daughter-in-law make traditional outfits to dress the dolls.
San Marcos, Ocosingo, Chiapas 29937
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