Being an avid mask collector, I endeavor to bring back a mask from every place we visit. Sometimes the search is interesting; places like California aren’t known for their masks — but are definitely known for their surfboards. However, at one point in our Cali travels we found a cool handmade surf board with tiki mask elements carved into it.

Anyway, between the eerie life like masks we found in Nicaragua, and wicker and wood masks we found with a street vendor in Costa Rica, came the above.

At first glance they were interesting but not enough to keep my eye. They’re fairly generic and I’m not partial to clay masks. However, upon second pass they really caught my attention.


Some of these masks have real teeth. I did a third pass to examine their mouths… just to be sure. Definitely real teeth – divots, grooves, chips, dental wear and all. In fact, the middle mask on the bottom row has the teeth of a smoker!

This is a bit of a mystery. I haven’t been able to find anything on the usage of teeth in Costa Rican masks. And, the country isn’t known historically for mutilations or the keeping of human trophies (like the Jivaro and shrunken heads). So, where does this practice come from? And, where do the teeth come from? Does the tooth fairy live in Costa Rica? Were they taken from the dead? A dentist, perhaps?

Either way, we moved along when I started to imagine the conversation we’d have with Canadian Customs.

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