Louis David Valenzuela
Traditional Yoeme Cottonwood Mask Maker

“Over time, carving has grown
more into me and who I
have to be for my culture.”

Cultural Community: yOEME/yAQUI
Location: Tucson, AZ

Louis David Valenzuela is one of the last traditional Yoeme cottonwood mask makers in Southern Arizona from the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. He learned the form from traditional Pascola mask makers from New and Old Pascua in Tucson. He began creating these traditional art forms in 1974, such as carving and sculpturing which teaches his culture.

Since then, he continues to mentor younger generations to continue the tradition, give workshops, and teach summer programs as well as adult programs. He enjoys teaching non-natives about his culture because it represents real native culture, rather than what is being shown in the media today.

He is currently working with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe as an Elder Instructor for culture and art. His masks represent significant cultural animals, such as monkeys, goats, and roosters. He also creates masks for the Sacred Pascola Dances, which are performed annually during the Pascua Yaqui Lent ceremony.

Valenzuela has taught and exhibited his work throughout Arizona. He is a 2018 recipient of the Southwest Folklife Alliance Master-Apprentice Award.

Recently, Valenzuela was invited and attended the 2023 Smithsonian Museum Folklike Festival!

Check out this inspirational conversation with Louis, The Wood is Like Magic, at Borderlore.