These vibrantly colored masks were carved to be sold as souvenirs but masks have been an integral of Guatemalan culture since pre-Colombian times when they were used for religious dance ceremonies. Over time, dances evolved to incorporate both Mayan and Spanish influences.
The tradition continues today with indigenous groups performing masked dances that reenact religious and mythological themes, often centered around fertility or warding away evil.
Animals are a common source of dance story as well as mask design inspiration.
I knew I wanted to bring a mask back with me – I just love the vivid colors and the creative designs. When I found out how lightweight they are, that the antlers and horns can be removed and packed separately, and that the masks are extremely affordable, I ended up bringing home six masks with me! They have really brightened up a hallway wall in my house.
I found out that many of the masks sold in the other tourist hotspots are likely to have been carved in Chichicastenango so I held off til I made it Chichi. Indeed, I found that both selection and pricewise, Chichicastanengo was the best place to best place to pick up a mask or two…..or six.