Besides a mock wedding with men dressed as women, mentioned in my previous post, Carnaval (Carnival, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday) in San Martín Tilcajete also means young men covered in motor oil (yuck!) and paint running through the village with belts of cowbells ringing.
And, it means muchas mascaras de madera — in this village famous for its fantastical hand-painted alebrije woodcarvings and masks.
Some of my favorite masks and body paint were done by Jesus Sosa Calvo, his talented wife, Juana Vicente Ortega Fuente, and their gifted children. (See the mask I gave to my son, carved by Apolinar, one of their sons.) If you are in San Martín Tilcajete, be sure to see their work at Matlacihua Arte (right across from the zócalo on the main street).
The Spanish brought this pre-Lenten tradition to Mexico and, like many other seasonal celebrations, it conveniently coincided with indigenous festivals celebrating the “lost days” of the Mesoamerican calendar, “when faces were covered to repel or confuse evil.” Apparently, it caught on “because it was one time when normal rules could be broken especially with the use of masks to hide identities from the authorities.”
Masks, motor oil, face and body paint, you name it, disguised and anonymous was the order of the day!