Masks have been created and used in Mexico since 3000 B.C. Masks were used as an important part of ritual dance, expressing the beliefs and religion of the community. They were made by farmers, carpenters, and other laborers who passed down their skills, but often did not identify themselves in their work.
This particular Diablo Mask is used in Pastorelas. A Pastorela is a play or theatrical performance specific to Christmas. It is the story of the shepherds who travelled to Bethlehem to find the baby Jesus.
While La Pastorela still tells the story of the shepherds trying to find baby Jesus, it has evolved a great deal over time. It is often re-enacted outside in a town square and through the nearby streets. It will go on for days, sometimes an entire week. El Diablo (The Devil) and Los Negritos (The Dark Ones) are important parts of the play today.
The Devil does all sorts of things to try and keep the shepherds from reaching baby Jesus. Los Negritos represent the everyday person who struggles with different things that keep him or her from doing the right thing.
Victoriano Salgado Morales was a prolific designer and maker of wooden, maque, decorative masks used by dancers in Purépecha fiestas. Born in Uruapan, MIchoacan, Mexico in 1920, he was a Grand Master of Mexican Folk art and one of the last skilled masters of this unique art form. Señor Salgado learned this skill from several mask makers of the Magdalena neighborhood where he grew up. His first mask dates back to 1950 and it was a "Negrito" folk dance mask.
Señor Salgado'smasks are not painted, the process used for color is a highly superior technique called "maque", which is a pre-hispanic process involving numerous applications of natural earth and insect pigments and oils applied with the palm of the hand that hardens into a brilliant, lustrous surface.
He created over 60 different masks, the most famous: dance of the Señor Naranjo, and the dance of the Tataqueri, Corcovi, Diablos, Negritos and Viejitos. HIs work is highly collectible and can be found in private and museum collections including The British Museum, The Field Museum, The Museum of International Folk Art, and The Smithsonian Institution.
Victoriano Salgado Moralespassed away on September 2012, two weeks before receiving the Erendira Award, the highest prize given by the Michoacan State Government. Although Señor Salgado has passed away, his legacy lives on through his family. He was one of Mexico's premier carvers whose masks were synonymous with the regional dances of Uruapan, Michoacán. Now Victoriano's sons, Martin, Gerardo and Juan Carlos carry on their father's tradition by preserving the methods, techniques and materials passed on to them.