Life & Leisure

Mask maker helps liven up Mexico’s Halloween, Day of the Dead festivities

By Edgar Avila Perez

Puebla, Mexico, Oct 25 (EFE).- A modest workshop in a remote part of central Mexico churns out tens of thousands of masks every year for Halloween and Day of the Dead, offering shoppers a mixture of frightful and humorous options for those festivities.

Around 100,000 masks of witches, devils, skulls, vampires, clowns, werewolves, horror-film characters like Chucky and Freddy Krueger and even Mexican politicians are hand-crafted at that factory in Yehualtepec, a municipality in the state of Puebla.

The different varieties of masks made from transparent latex and stemming from films, legends or workers’ imaginations hang on racks inside the warehouse.

The bright red shades used for the blood of the victims of those imaginary beings, or the dark hues employed to represent a character’s rotten soul “reflect the fear that thousands of people harbor inside them,” Rafael Dominguez Gonzalez, the founder of Mastermania, told Efe on Monday.

“The goal is to make the customer feel that fear, and that’s where the success of our masks lie,” he said.

The sounds of a spinning emery wheel that removes the latex masks’ imperfections and of the airbrushes that add color to the creations are heard throughout the workspace.

Surrounded by unplastered brick walls and old cans of paint, Dominguez recalled making his first mask of Frankenstein’s monster more than three decades ago using a coating that he said would have made the character’s creator, Mary Shelley, turn over in her grave.

“It was half ‘chafa’ (shoddy). We were just starting out and we didn’t know any better,” he recalled.

Dominguez noted that his brother made children’s masks out of plastic but said he decided to make the leap to latex, a move that has led to Mastermania’s having become the country’s second-leading artisanal mask factory.

“It’s something you do artisanally. We don’t use any mechanical tool. Ninety percent of the masks are made by hand, with creativity, imagination. And when your mask is finished, you look at it and see your work, your effort, reflected there,” he said.

The masks range from the terrifying to the comedic, with the faces of five recent ex-presidents – Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderon and Enrique Peña Nieto – and current head of state Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also part of the product line-up.

“Honestly, if we put the monsters on one side and the politicians on the other, I think the politicians are more fearsome,” Dominguez joked. “Because the monsters are fictitious, but the politicians are real, and we know how they are.”

The menacing faces of the masks, meanwhile, contrast sharply with the smiles of the men and women who create them.

Some masks are inspired by characters from films or websites, but others spring from the imaginations of the workers themselves, including the grim clowns of Anastacio Cedano Rodriguez, head of modeling, design and decoration at Mastermania.

“No fear at all, just the opposite, well maybe of some politicians,” he said laughing while using an airbrush to give life to a werewolf that will soon be a Halloween mask of choice somewhere in Mexico. EFE


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