When one puts on a mask, he takes on the persona of the mask. Ceremonial masks have been used in dances in Mexico and Guatemala for thousands of years. Before the Spanish Conquest, masks depicted the animal spirits and gods of the indigenous peoples. The Spanish priests taught Roman Catholicism to the natives using medieval Mystery and Miracle Plays and introduced new masks for these performances. Such figures included the Spaniard and the Moor, and the Devil to represent Judas. Native dances evolved to incorporate both types of figures, and animal masks as well as those of European origin are still used in local festivals.
Our dance masks are from Mexico and Guatemala. Descriptions accompany each mask. There are dance masks, some old and some new; masks by the master mask makers Juan Orta(now deceased) of Michoacan, Mexico; Justo Xuana of Oaxaca. Those masks which have actually been danced are marked as such. Others were bought from makers of dance masks, but never danced.