Antonia Rodríguez Sánchez
Leather Masks & Dolls
The masks produced by the family of Geronimo López Mendez are the last of their type — yet another media of folk art almost extinct. Sibaca, a Tzeltal pueblo (town) not too far from Ocosingo, Chiapas, used to have carnival dances and festivals, however, the last ones occurred in 1972 and with the disappearance of the carnivals, the leather masks made for the dances are in great danger of being forgotten.
Don Geronimo López Mendez remembers the fiestas with fondness. As a child, he used to climb the tree by the church on the plaza and sit there for hours watching the dances and admiring the masks. He was fascinated by the masks and learned how to make them. After the 70s, he and his family were the only ones who knew the secrets of making these unique dance masks. He taught his son and his daughters, Josefina and Petrona, and also his daughter-in-law, Antonia Rodríguez Sánchez, how to make them.
The masks are made of cow skins that have been cured in salt and then the designs are burned into the hair. Horse hair is used to decorate them. The designs on the face are inspired by the flora and fauna of their surroundings, but somehow, they also are reminiscent of some African masks. We have been unable to find information on who the mask characters portray and what the dances were about, but these primitive masks are fascinating and do not seem to be related to any other masks encountered in Chiapas.
Don Geronimo and his wife live with their daughter Josefina López Cruz, her husband and children in Sibaca, while her sister, Petrona, and sister-in-law, Antonia Rodríguez Sánchez, live in a village a little further at the end of the paved road in San Marcos. The three of them continue the tradition rescued by Don Geronimo
The third sister, Rosa, lives with her husband, Don Miguel, in San Cristóbal de las Casas and help with the sale of the dolls and masks.
Antonia also does some very simple clay masks and clay dolls dressed in their local costume. She has won several state prizes and we hope to see a few of these at the Feria.