Festival of Iberian Masks in Zamora, Spain

From the 25 – 27 of September this year, Zamora celebrated its 7th annual Iberian Mask Festival. As I have covered in several other posts, many of these mask traditions (mascaradas) are of ancient origin and can often be traced to pre-Christian Celtic and often pre-Roman traditions around the renewal of fertility and life and an end of winter. Masks, bulls, bells are all related to fertility rites signifying the survival of villages, their inhabitants, their crops, and their livestock through the harsh winter months and the arrival of the Spring and life’s renewal. Festivals in the villages occur as early as December in some villages while others celebrate theirs during the week of carnival.  Syncretic beliefs, a mixture of both pagan rituals and Christian practices, are present in several of the village celebrations.  Each village has its own unique way of celebrating and demonstrating these incredible traditions with their use of unique masks, instruments, color, and characters. I will continue to visit many of these villages in Spain and Portugal in the coming years to document their specific rituals and costumes.

The city government of Zamora in collaboration with the Academia Ibérica da Mascara invited mask groups from villages in Portugal and Spain. From Portugal all of the participants came from the ethnographically rich Tras-Os-Montes region near Bragança. While from Spain many participants came from Zamora province, but others came from as far away as Asturias, Extremadura, and Avila. On a personal level I truly enjoyed the event because I was able to reconnect with many of the mascarada participants and planners that I had met over the years in my coverage of these spectacular winter festivals. Enticing me to do further fieldwork, I was also able to see new villages’ traditions and costumes as well.

In addition to the mascaradas parading through the streets in Zamora, the city government also hosted another important aspect of these winter festivals, an exhibition of the artisans that make the masks for these celebrations. On display were examples of their work, some available for purchase where one could see the true craftsmanship that goes into each mask and how each village differs in both style and representation.

I would like to thank Antonio Pinelo Tiza and Bernardo Calvo Brioso, members of the Academia Ibérica da Mascara, of Bragança and Zamora respectively, for their invitation and helpful interpretation of this event.

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All images Copyright © 2015 Kyle Hearn, All Rights Reserved

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