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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

masks as a part of dance festivals and dramas has an ancient history in
Mexico, a history that reveals stages passed by the indigenous culture
from shamanistic religion, through elaborate priestly cults, to the syn-
cretic Christianity and gradual submersion by nonnative power which
followed the Conquest. Since this masking tradition is both central
and ancient for the indigenous Mexican, its history becomes one more
way to comprehend the rich complexity of Mexico and its people.
The plan of Cordry's book implies that he is aware of this potential
historical value, even though his own core of interest is in the Mexican
mask as art. With rare exceptions, most surviving Mexican masks are
no more than sixty to ninety years old at most. Thus Cordry's focus is
on the most recent and, unfortunately but almost certainly, the last
phase of Mexico's masking tradition. Even so, he devotes chapters to
the pre-Columbian uses of masks and to the central importance to
masking of shamanistic beliefs and practices (the latter is done better
than the former). He surrounds this historical and ethnographic infor-
mation with chapters on the mask-makers and their materials and
techniques, and on the social uses of masks. Through all of these chap-
ters the viewpoint is derived from the importance of the mask as art,
and it is this subject which forms the introductory section of the book.
In general Mexican Masks is successful, albeit at a level that leaves
many questions unanswered, some not even posed, and considerable
material adumbrated rather than fully developed. Cordry remains
essentially the amateur, the lover, connoisseur, and collector rather
than the systematic scholar. This results in the weaknesses implied
above, but it also produces what is ultimately the great strength of
Mexican Masks-the extraordinary variety of masks illustrated (over
400) in splendid photographs, of which a gratifyingly large number are
in color. This alone means that Mexican Masks will remain an essen-
tial visual reference for the forms, types, and styles which constitute
what survives of this historically important Mexican art.
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts JOHN LUNSFORD
Notes Illustrating the Military Geography of the United States, 1813-
i88o. By Raphael P. Thian, edited by John M. Carroll. (Austin:
University of Texas Press, 1980. Pp. xii+ 2o3. Foreword, introduc-
tion, charts, index. $17.50.)
Raphael P. Thian spent fifty years as a clerk in the Adjutant Gen-
eral's Office of the United States army, and one accomplishment of this


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed April 30, 2016.

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