Photo Essay

Iberian Mask Festival 2019

Iberian Mask Festival

Iberian Mask Festival 2019

Devil looking caretos began to gather in the Praça do Império shortly before 3 PM. The parade was scheduled for 4 o'clock. Marchers lined up dressed in masks of painted tree bark and animal hides; some resembled bulls, some wolves, some horses. Large crowds of spectators crowding the street danced in place to sounds from large drums pounding out infectious tribal rhythms. Clans from the northern hill country wore harnesses bearing oversized cow bells producing a deep metallic clang as they jumped up and down in unison. Over 500 costumed figures representing 35 different regions of Spain and Portugal prepared to march along the one mile parade route through the district of Belem. It was day three of the four day Masque de Iberian – the Iberian Mask Festival. And the Grand Mask Parade, as always, is one of the most anticipated events. It is colorful and it is a spectacle.

Each May, the city of Lisbon hosts this four day event, a menagerie of mask making workshops, musical acts and tents selling local Iberian foods and crafts. They have been doing this since 2006, but the roots of the festival go back much further. The masks keep alive pagan ritual and superstitions going back as far as the 13th century. Many of the characters were once used to scare off bad spirits, to bless the harvests or to promote fertility. Animals and nature are reflected in the costumes; the devil is often a theme. Recent years have seen the festival expand to include other mask related cultures from all over the world giving it a true international flavor. Wild animal headdresses from Carnivale in South America and multi-person Chinese dragons from Macau were represented for 2019. Frightening Bosus from Hungary came to celebrate as men sporting long ram horns and magnificent sheepskin robes. Part folk festival and part Mardi Gras, no two groups look like one another - each region presents its own collection of historic creatures.

2 responses

  • Lynn E. Harvey

    Lynn E. Harvey gave props (4 Jun 2019):

    Outstanding!The detail of each mask and the significance of the Festical is enlightening and wonderful to see, great series.

  • Andrea Petersen

    Andrea Petersen gave props (8 Jun 2019):

    Making masks from painted tree bark and animal hides is an amazing concept using what nature has to offer and you captured memorable images for your photo essay...You got my vote!

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