Rocío Yobal’s art has reached Canada and the United States.
At the age of eight, Rocío Yobal Colorado listened from her home to the clanging of the rattles of the Banda Cruzada dance, which from two o’clock in the morning goes through the neighborhood of El Carmen, in the patron saint festivities of the municipality of Xico, in Veracruz. But what most caught his attention were the masks that covered the faces of the dancers.
Life in the neighborhood of El Carmen is like this: some are born as dancers, others as musicians, and still others as masqueraders or artisans. For Rocío, the tradition of making masks came from her uncles and her brother, who wore them in the Banda Cruzada.
Jealous of her traditions and handicrafts, Rocio did not learn the art of mask making from her relatives or neighbors, she did it through a federal program of popular culture that came to her town; she received a scholarship and learned. Now she has a workshop where she makes them not only for the dances but also as ornaments because she also learned to make them in miniature for jewelry.
I have very little. I tell my friends, my classmates, that I am like their kindergarten girl because they have been making masks for 30 or 40 years, and I have only been making them for 10 years,” she explained.
It should be noted that the best-known mask makers in Xico are the Tepo family, a family that has transcended with artistic creations and who all year round make these handicrafts for the patron saint festivities of the Veracruz regions. There are also other outstanding artisans, but the singular thing is that now it is a woman who makes them, and not only for the dances.
Each mask has a story,” explains the artisan in an interview with Excélsior, who gives a category to each face or expression.
She shows the mask of a separate Negro which, she considers, evidences the elegance, punctuality, and discipline used by the dancers who lead the groups. Those of Torito represent abundance, he explains. The Catarina mask dates back to the time of the Conquest; and there are those that represent mestizaje, the mixture between indigenous and Spanish.
The most representative mask of the Xiqueños, he adds, is that of the Clown, which transmits joy, but with a touch of solemnity. The Clown wears red piping and his costume is complemented with flowers from the altar of Santa María Magdalena, the town’s patron saint, whose feast day is celebrated in July.
But beyond the fact that she has made this art an extension of the tradition of her town because she sends them to Canada and the United States, where there are Mexicans nostalgic for their roots, Rocío gives another touch to her work and now introduces them as an adornment: earrings and necklaces, rings and bracelets bear her stamp, she has turned them into miniatures and considers that with these objects, popular art is offered in a different way.
The importance to be given to the mask, both large and small, should be on par. Obviously, it is not given the same occupation; but all my masks, the ones that are taken to festivals or to cultural event, have a different history; but we tell the same tradition and I am proud of my masks and my dances,” she says.
Rocío has a workshop where she makes her handicrafts and offers workshops for children so that the tradition continues. “Our culture is still alive,” she says proudly.