Portrayals of the Spanish Conquerors
Duality was a fundamental concept in the pre-hispanic world. Everything has its opposite, and together they form a whole. Each part is inextricably connected with its other side: male-female, day-night, life-death, etc. Each can only be understood, or even exist, in relation to its opposite. Above, this Janus-like mask expresses duality using two blonde figures, male and female. The native people often portrayed the Spanish satirically, so this double mask might express the two-faced nature of white overlords. One the one hand, the Conquistadors brought Christianity, on the other, enslavement and cultural genocide.
Spanish arrived in Guerrero, most of the indigenous people fled the fertile Pacific Coast plains to the safety of the mountainous interior. Consequently, the Spaniards had to work their own fields, at least at first. Eventually, they imported African slaves to do the work. The mix of Spanish, African, and indigenous cultures gives this part of Mexico an interesting cultural twist.
Adoring the Saints: Fiestas in Central Mexico, "A type of crazies, men dressed as women, existed in pre-Columbian times and were adapted immediately after the Conquest as characters to mock the Spaniards...today, groups of crazies who take part in patron saint fiestas continue this tradition... the crazies and the giant puppets are two of the bawdiest, most grotesque, and satirical components of the patron saint fiesta."
La Danza de los Moros y Cristianos
Santiago Matamoros (St. James the Moor Slayer) appeared at a critical moment in the battle and led the Christian forces to victory over Pilates and his Moors. This was how the Apostle James gained the nickname Matamoros. Most historians don't believe the battle actually happened. Apparently it was invented hundreds of years later by people who wanted to rally Spanish support for la Reconquista by making Santiago Matamoros the patron saint of Spain.
1095 AD, Pope Urban II called for a Crusade to free the Holy Land. This First Crusade was one of several waged over the following centuries. The Crusades drew Christian warriors from all over Europe into conflicts with various parts of the Muslim world, including Spain. Some of the early Crusades were successful for a time because the Muslims were relatively unprepared. However, the Muslims ultimately recovered nearly all the territory the Crusaders captured. The only unqualified Crusader success was la Reconquista. In 1492, the south-coast principality of Granada was the last remaining Moorish stronghold in Spain. When it fell to the husband-and-wife team of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castille, the 700-year Reconquista was complete. During the last stages of their siege of Granada, a young Italian named Christopher Columbus waited impatiently in Ferdinand and Isabella's camp. He was eager to present a proposal to sail westward over the Atlantic in hopes of landing in Asia. As it turned out, he discovered a New World, transforming Spain from a poor, barely-unified medieval state into the seat of one of the largest and richest empires the world had ever seen.
encomienda system to handle newly-conquered Moorish lands. Transferred to the New World, this system allowed a Spaniard who subdued a local population to be granted an encomienda, or the right to demand free labor. On his part, the new overlord had the responsibility to ensure that the locals were properly Christianized. New World encomiendas were very beneficial to the Spanish conquistadors but disastrous to the native populations. Lastly, the bloody-handed but victorious Santiago Matamoros became the patron saint of those fighting to conquer the New World's non-Christians. Newly-arrived Spanish priests pushed the indigenous people to celebrate the Spanish defeat of the Moors. The resulting fiestas became imbued with all sorts of pre-hispanic meanings not intended and probably not understood by the priests. To see an example of this, check out the Danza de los Tastoanes, held annually in Tonalá, near Guadalajara.
Danzas de la Santa Semana (Holy Week Dances)
Masks of the Venetian Masquerade
Venice Carnival began as a celebration of the victory of the Republic of Venice over the Patriarch of Aquileia in 1162 AD. During the Renaissance, the Carnival became an officially sponsored event. At the end of the 18th Century, when Venice was ruled by the King Austria, the event was outlawed and the use of masks forbidden. The Carnival was revived in the 19th Century, but mostly for private parties. In 1979, the Italian Government once again sponsored the Carnival as a way of bringing back the history and culture of Venice.
This concludes Part 6 of my San Luis Potosí series. It is also the last of the National Mask Museum. I hope you enjoyed this amazing museum and that you take the time to visit it if you get to San Luis. I always appreciate comments and questions. If you'd like to make one, please leave it in the Comments section below or email me directly.
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Hasta luego, Jim