Maya Masks and the Dance of the Deer
Maya ceremonial masks are used with costumes at important events such as weddings to portray religious beliefs and historical events in Maya life. Some of the dances performed include: the monkey dance, torro dance, moors dance, and the devil’s dance. The two most famous dances are the Cortez dance and the deer dance.
The Deer Dance
The deer dance is a Maya custom that depicts a scene from around the time of the Spanish conquest. Participants wear masks and costumes that resemble two Europeans and several animals. The dance begins as one of the Europeans sees an animal in the forest and asks a Maya what it is. A Maya man tells him it’s a deer. The European asks if they eat deer, to which the response is no, because they don’t have the tools needs to catch deer. All this is done by corporal gestures as the dancers sway back and forth to the cheerful rhythm of the marimba.
The story continues as the European instructs the villager to go up to the mountain where another European lives and ask him to hunt a deer. His instructions are carried out but not before praying to Tzuultaq’a, god of the hill.
The Europeans then produce a gun which is used to shoot a rabid deer at an opening near the river. At which point the rest of the animals in the forest, other deer, the monkey, the tiger and the lion then carry the hunter out of the forest so that he not continue hunting and to celebrate a successful hunt.
They all dance together in celebration.
Photography by Chaa Creek Naturalist Guide Meshack Eliah