Transforming Tradition,  Performing the Mask

Our group chose to examine the use of masks in three very different settings in an effort to establish some shared connection between their use by FOMMA, Jesusa Rodriguez, and the Zapatistas.   We find that masks serve a transformative function that is practical, political, and performative.  Its practicality is to conceal the face, but also to conceal fear.  The mask makes its bearer brave.  Francisca from FOMMA relates how the mask helped her overcome her fear of the audience and develop the strength to perform on stage without a mask.  Its political purposes are varied.  In the case of the Zapatistas they establish a political connection and commitment by making their bodies hyper-visible.  It has an equalizing force that makes its members not the same, but one.   In the case of FOMMA the actors’ masks provide them entrance onto the stage, the ability for gender play, and for much needed social commentary.   Jesusa Rodriguez used masks with us to act out against the ongoing murderous assault on young people and women by multiple social forces.  Her masks also had an equalizing effect as we saw in the case of our own action on Friday July 30th where the masks not only concealed our foreignness but also effectively connected our experiences of life and death to that of our spectators in a performative funeral procession.  What follows is an analysis of the use of masks by FOMMA presented by Doris and Mathew, followed by some reflections on the July 29th action and a practical guide to mask-making presented by Claudia and myself.  Lastly we will discuss the use of masks by the Zapatistas as a political symbol and a form of establishing unity and mobilizing action.  As one Zapatista related, without the mask I’m just another Indio, but with the mask I am a revolutionary.

Group members: Karina Castro, Doric Difarnecio, Claudia Garriga-Lopez, Matthew Tremé, Maria E. Schirmer