Mexican Artists Carve Masks at Margaritas

Masks at Margaritas

On Sunday, October 21 Margaritas Mexican Restaurant in Medford hosted visiting artists Manuel Abeiro Horta and Modesto Horta, a team of mask makers from Tócuaro, Mexico.

With nothing more than some hand-made tools forged by a local blacksmith, the brothers transformed a hunk of wood into an expressive work of art based on the traditions of their ancestors. Wooden masks, such as the style of the Horta family, are still used in many regions of Mexico during fiestas. The Horta brothers started learning their craft at a young age and by the time they were 12, the duo helped their famous father Juan Horta carve wooden masks.

Manuel Abeiro particularly enjoys carving animal masks and adorning them with hair and whiskers made from the hide of wild boars. Modesto is known for his elaborately carved high relief devil masks. They paint the masks with lacquer-based automobile paints. It’s not uncommon for the masks to be used for three or four days as dancers parade from street to street reenacting ancient plays and dances. Both brothers have exhibited their masks in exhibitions in the United States and Mexico and have carved a variety of masks that will be on full display at Margaritas. A video presentation portraying life in their rural village accompanied the exhibit.

The presentation in Medford is one of several scheduled during the next two months throughout New England. As part of Margaritas Education Outreach Program, artists visit not only the restaurants to demonstrate their craft to the public, but also are scheduled to visit several local schools to share Mexican culture, traditions and trade secrets with students and faculty. Margaritas created the program in 1999 to bring artists, carvers and sculptors, to the northeast every year to share their talents with students and Margaritas diners. The series provides a glimpse into the colorful culture and traditions of techniques that date back centuries.

Manuel Abeiro and Modesto come from a family of artisans famous for their traditional masks that are sought after by collectors from around the world. The region where they live, in the state of Michoacán, is known for producing high-quality wood products such as hand-carved tables, chairs, frames and folk art – many of which are used as furnishings in the 22 Margaritas restaurants. The world famous Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary is located in this central Mexican state in the Sierra Madre Mountains.

“The Horta brothers are back by popular demand,” said Founder John Pelletier. “Last year, our guests loved having the opportunity to enjoy authentic Mexican fare and watch these award-winning folk artists demonstrate their craft. We are excited to share that experience once again with the rest of the New England area.”

The Margaritas Education Outreach Program was developed to integrate Margaritas’ unique cultural events with local community organizations such as schools and cultural institutions. In addition to the yearly artist visits, Margaritas also works closely with local schools to host student field trips to their restaurants. The presentation is a hands-on, interactive experience for students that reinforce Margaritas commitment to multicultural experiences in the local community. These field trips include a video of contemporary Mexican life and craft building and a tour of a living gallery filled with hand-crafted furnishings and folk art. Students are engaged through multisensory interactions with presenters who provide historical information and cooks who prepare authentic Mexican foods.

– Information and photo from Margaritas

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