Wooden masks worn by Pascola ritual dancers, the “old men of the fiesta,” hold deep ritual significance for Mayo communities of Mexico’s Rio Mayo in Sonora and Rio Fuerte in Sinaloa and Yaqui communities in Sonora and Arizona. The masks of the two communities are broadly similar, but they exhibit specific differences due to variations in beliefs and practices, availability of raw materials, and individual mask carvers’ styles.
Within the last century, Pascola masks have also become sought after by anthropologists and art collectors, due to their aesthetic and cultural, as well as perceived spiritual virtues. This exhibit highlights Mayo and Yaqui Pascola masks from the collection of Dr. James S. Griffith, folklorist and retired University of Arizona Researcher. It was guest curated by Santiago Benton, a Mayo linguist and Mayo Pascola, and Daniel Vega, Cultural Specialist from the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and their elder advisors, in collaboration with Dr. Griffith and ASM curators.
With the mask on his face, a Pascola is transformed into an animal spirit, dwelling in the Wilderness World, or Huya Ania. —Mayo Pascola José Gil Jocobi, Etchojoa, Sonora, as told to Santiago Benton
Everything related to Pascolas has a story to it. Every item, every piece that a Pascola has and uses is part of his gift to the Yaqui people. —Yaqui Pascola Modesto Bule
I am approaching this exhibit with great humility, honored to be listening to the experts. —James S. Griffith, in conversation with Yaqui and Mayo Pascolas