Friday, September 10, 2010

Felipe Horta, a great maskmaker

I first met Felipe de Jesus Horta Tera when I was in Uruapan in the state of Michoacan, Mexico at the Tianguis Artesanial. This is a fair that is held annually and artisans from all over the state come to display and sell their art, crafts, embroidered clothing, ponchos, guitars, rebozos, baskets, ceramics, masks,you name it... But that is for another story... I ended up buying a few masks from Felipe for my brother, Carter, who has a tremendous mask collection.

In July, I was over in Patzcuaro for a few days and I drove along the west side of Lake Patzcuaro to Tocuaro where Felipe lives. Felipe began carving at the age of twelve, an art that he learned from his father.
Felipe is modeling the mask for me. This mask has been "danced" which means it has been worn in a parade or a traditional dance for a particular festival.
I really wanted to buy this one with the rabbit fur on the top but Felipe would not budge. It was part of his personal collection.
About two weeks later, Felipe came over to San Miguel de Allende, where I live part time, and brought a whole collection of old and danced masks along with some masks he had just carved and painted. He carves his masks out of Copal wood and Avocado wood.
More masks. The pink face masks with the sisal hair are worn for the Danza de Los Viejitos, dance of the old men. This dance is pretty funny. The dancers wear masks of old people and they are dressed in typical campesino (people of the countryside) clothing. They start the dance mimicking hunched over old men with minimal movements. Then the dancers pick up the pace, they start trembling, falling down, coughing but still moving rather slowly. Today the dance represents the richness of life and is performed during religious holidays.
Felipe is well known for his elaborate devils masks.
Many times masks are faces of the Spanish conquerors. These two are of Empress Carlota and Emperor Maximilian. I could not resist not buying these two. The hypnotic eyes with the horse hair eye lashes just spoke to me.


  1. I love those masks of the Dance of the Viajitos (the elders). And all the different "faces" of Mexico captured in this fabulous tradition. Thanks, Robin, for sharing your love and appreciation of these traditions by supporting the arts and crafts of Mexico through your tours which really bring the heart and soul of Mexico into the hearts of the people in your groups. They are lucky to have you as their guide. Dianne

  2. As you know, Felipe's home/taller is a wonderful place to visit. While their earlier this year, Felipe was not there, but his lovely wife was. It was an unforgettable experience, and we hope to return soon. Thank you for your informative article, kate