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

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

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 continues to mentor younger generations to continue the tradition, gives workshops, and teaches summer programs, as well as adult programs. He also enjoys teaching non-natives about his culture because it represents real native culture, rather than what is being shown in the media today. Currently, he is working with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe as an Elder Instructor for culture and art.

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 Folklife Festival!

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