Mayan Masks Traditional to Indigenous Mexico Explored by Founder Bill LeVasseur
Mayan masks are featured at Another Face of Mexico, a folk art gallery and mask museum founded by Bill LeVasseur in San Miguel de Allende.
Originally from Maine, Bill worked from 1968 – 1970 as a professional musician, singer, and recording artist with Decca Records. He then joined an advertising agency, launching a career that lasted 30 years. He was assigned to the international division of his company that took his family to Mexico City from 1974 to 1978, and Brussels from 1978 to 1983. He returned to Mexico City on assignment in 1994. In 1997 he retired from the advertising business and moved to San Miguel de Allende.
Mayan masks are of extreme cultural importance to the people of Mexico. Masking started in the hunter/gatherer societies, with hunters believing if they dressed and acted like an animal they were pursuing, they would be more successful. Hence came the masking tradition that remains as a sign of a strong sense of community, cultural identity, and cultural cohesion. The masks are also significant in celebrations, such as the reenactment of the dance of the Conquest, or the Day of the Dead dancing to send the dead on the road to heaven. As Bill said it best masks are “really a community’s expression of its cultural roots.”
Bill has been collecting Mexican ceremonial masks for as long as he has been in Mexico and still travels extensively to see and film dance ceremonies and acquire masks. His mask-collecting hobby has now become an avocation to document and share the indigenous ceremonial customs with mask museum visitors, college audiences and Mexican school children. The museum opened to the public in February of 2006.
For more on Other Faces of Mexico Mask Museum, visit http://www.maskmuseumsma.com/
Next: Want to see some of the amazing masks Bill has collected over the years? Check out our photo essay on Mexico’s indigenous masks!