Monday, June 1, 2009

Masks and the Mexican Psyche....

No this is not another post about the Swine Flu Crisis..(we seem to have moved on from that fortunately) but more of a musing on masks and the Mexican psyche. I managed to avoid wearing a face mask at any time during the crisis (even when I was supposed to at school during the student health checks) but saw my fellow Mexicans embrace it without any hesitation .....

David Lida on his blog was the first recently to make the link between Mexican culture and masks by referring to Octavio Paz' analysis of the Mexican essential character in his classic "The Labyrinth of Solitude" whereby he devotes a whole chapter to the deep-seated characteristic of always putting on a mask. Check the full posting by clicking here. So this weekend I decided to see what evidence I could gather for this supposed national trait.


First up is this wonderful exhibition "Otros Rostros" (Other Faces) currently along Reforma displaying the photographs of anthropologist and folk art collector Ruth D Lechuga ( 1920 - 2004). Taken mainly in the 1970s and 1980s they depict festivals around Mexico, and of the hundred or so photographs every character is masked...



Next I strolled through Chapultepec Park with its many stalls selling the Lucha Libre wrestling masks....


Children and teenagers were all running around with their masked faces courtesy of the face painting stalls advertising these kinds of options...


I have never been in a country with more costume and fancy dress shops called "tiendas de disfraces" ( shops for disguises), and, thus, I leave you with this final famous portrait, currently in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, of the legendary Lucha Libre wrestler "El Santo" who would never allow himself to be seen let alone photographed without his mask...


So plenty of seeming evidence on show, but how any of this translates into an insight into the Mexican psyche or character, I don't really feel qualified to comment as I haven't been here long enough to really know, but it is an interesting concept to think about...Maybe I should read Octavio Paz again...


For other musings around the world this week click here for MyWorldTuesday postings...


17 comments:

Owen said...

Masks are a fascinating subject. Haiti is big on masks too, around Carnaval time in February especially.

Sylvia K said...

What a fascinating post! Never thought about masks in this way! Fabulous photos! Thanks for an interesting look at your world! Have a great weekend!

Marja said...

Very interesting. We always dressed up in Holland with carnaval but I never liked wearing masks eventhough I find them sometimes fascinating

Wolynski said...

Fascinating. That last picture of the wrestler is fantastic.
I don't know about masks - we communicate with our faces. Bank robbers wear masks... Faces are so very interesting - why cover them up?

Fly Girl said...

Very insightful post. I think a penchant for masks and costumes does reflect something about the national character. I never connected it to the quickness to wear medical maks but it all relates. I will be in Cancun or Cozumel on a press trip in a few weeks. Glad to hear the hysteria is over!

Sally in WA said...

How interesting about the masks. I enjoyed your post and the pictures.

kristine said...

Interesting theory....I used to collect masks - I do love them - but i ended up with too many and never ended up hanging them. So now I have a closet full of masks from around the world...

SandyCarlson said...

Utterly amazing. I am fascinated by masks.

Carver said...

I think masks are such a wonderful art/craft. I liked the variety you showed us here.

Arija said...

Masks to me mean more secretiveness and disguising yourself...I wonder why?

Hey Harriet said...

That's a really interesting connection. The El Santo photo brought back memeories of being forced to attend an El Santo film marathon many years ago. That was quite an experience!

Chris said...

Very neat collection!

Marites said...

I have a few collection of masks myself and you are quite right in telling that masks seem connected with culture. The mask designs usually vary with every country.

teachermeetsworld said...

I really liked the title of this post... "Masks and the Mexican Psyche". Written like an experienced IB English teacher. It has been my observation that the Spaniards wear masks... both literally and figuratively. My guess would be that some of Mexico's mask traditions were transplanted from the "Mother Country" while other rituals seem to stem from the Inca/Maya/Aztec peoples.

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