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Unmasking Zacatecas’ Rafael Coronel Museum

by planetnomad on November 16, 2011

There are many things to see and do in the colonial city of Zacatecas. Discovering hidden walkways, gazing up at the Cathedral’s Baroque details, zipping up the funicular to the Bufa or visiting the multitude of museums featuring everything from modern art to revolutionary history, this former silver mining giant completes the package. But, to leave here and not visit the impressive Museo Rafael Coronel is to forgo an opportunity to peek inside a museum showcasing one of Mexico’s finest collections of masks in addition to its extensive folk art with origins from all parts of the country .

Named for one of Zacatecas’ leading artists and distinguished sons, this museum contains vast works which Coronel bequeathed to the city. Some estimate that he took over forty years to amass such a sizeable collection.

The museum is divided into eight “Salas” or wings, and provides an exceptional overview of Mexican history through the eyes of a folk art historian.

Sala 1, called “Templo Capilla de San Antonio”, has numerous art pieces by Coronel himself. Sala 2 contains several city documents of Zacatecas dating back to the Spanish Royalty. There are “cedulas” or Royal decrees and the official coat of arms of Zacatecas, all authorized under King Phillip II in the late 1500’s. Sala 3 has a wide variety of pre-Hispanic terracotta bowls and other utensils which were used for ceremonial, as well as utilitarian uses such as cooking.

In Sala 4, one finds several “títeres”, or puppets which were created by Antonio Rosete and Maria de la Luz Aranda. The displays capture everything from a bullfight to military scenes from the Revolution. Sala 5, or the “Sala de Ruth Rivera” is named after Coronel’s wife, the daughter of Diego Rivera. Here, one sees several of Rivera’s architectural sketches, doodles and line drawings which he generated during his younger days. In Sala 6, there are numerous pre-Hispanic pieces such as instruments, sculptures, utensils, and miniature terracotta figurines. Sala de Arte Popular or Sala 7 has several creations originating from diverse parts of Mexico including musical instruments and paintings to name just a few.

Of course the different wings to this museum provide a wealth of historical information and entertainment for the visitor, but it’s Sala 8, or Sala de Mascaras, which garners the most attention. It is here, among the 10,000-plus stock of masks, where visitors come away in awe and with a genuine appreciation for the historical depth of the varied ethnic groups found throughout Mexico. This exhibit is laid out in eight different categories which include:

La Conquista

Moros y Cristianos

La Diablada

Las Pastorelas

Las Danzas

Mascaras Indigenas

El Mundo Fantastico de las Mascaras

Los Animales

Inspecting the bulk of space taken up by these masks, it becomes no surprise why most people refer to this museum simply as, “El Museo de las Mascaras”. If all this wasn’t enough, these artistic treasures are all housed on the well-maintained grounds of the 16th century Convent of San Francisco, a resting spot for traveling Franciscans headed north during those early days.


Open daily from 10am-4:30pm, closed Wednesdays

Entrance fee: 30 pesos

I am a contributing writer for the Mexico Today Project, which, along with Marca País – Imagen de México “ is a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and an unrivaled tourist destination.”

Disclaimer:  **Please note that I am being compensated for participation in this project and for attending its launch in Oaxaca. Also note that all posts and written contributions by me will be expressed in an unbiased form with all opinions reflecting my own.

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