During our visit to La Paz’s Museo de Etnografía y Folklore, our favorite exhibit was a temporary one, showcasing an astounding collection of the country’s ceremonial dance masks.
Masks are an essential part of Bolivian celebrations, allowing dancers to adopt the personalities which populate the country’s myths and legends. Demons, dragons and angels join representations of real-world creatures like bears and beavers. Most interesting are the masks based on characters from Bolivian history, such as caricatures of Spanish matadors, and African slaves brought over to work in Potosí’s mines. The latter are depicted with bulging eyes and extended tongues — conditions which the slaves, who suffered terribly with altitude sickness, were actually afflicted with.
Andean and Amazonian masks join those from the Chaco and the country’s eastern lowlands, in an incredibly thorough presentation of over fifty. Enjoy our exhaustive set of pictures! (Note: photography are normally not allowed, but you can purchase permission at the museum entrance).