Los Tlacololeros

In the Mexican state of Guerrero, there is a dance drama—los Tlacololeros—in which a group of farmers hunt a dangerous jaguar. Such dances are apparently ancient. We find an area of jaguar hunting performances along the Costa Chica, the “little coast” where Guerrero and Oaxaca meet the Pacific ocean, and extending to Chiapas and Guatemala. These dances occur in a series of contiguous Native American cultures, such as the Nahua, the Amuzgos, the Mixtecs, and a variety of Mayan cultures. The Tlacololeros dance survives in an area known as the Tlapaneca, which was traditionally occupied by the Tlapanec Indians. According to Danzas y bailes traditionales del estado de Guerrero (Mexico, 2005, pages 66-84), this dance presently persists in the following towns—Chilpancingo, Chichihuaco, Tixtla, Apango, Mochitlán, Zumpango, Tecoanapa, Ayutla, Zitlala, Chilapa, and others. You may already be aware of the considerable variation in mask styles between these many towns, and Tlacalolero masks, large and small, will illustrate this. Over the next few weeks I will show you some real beauties. Some nearby towns dance the Tecuanes dance instead; there is considerable overlap in terms of mask designs.

Here is a YouTube™video from Petaquillas, Guerrero, a town that is in the municipio of Chilpancingo; the two towns are just 6 miles apart. Some of the Tlacololeros have black human faced masks while others have red, white, or gray faces along with a standardized costume. There is a magnificent Tigre(jaguar) and a dog that looks like a very mean wolf. The human faced dancers portray a number of roles such as farmer-hunters and a Rastrero, or “tracker.”


In this next video, from Chichihualco, all of the masks are black. I include this one to share the accompanying text, which is interesting in its explanation that this dance appears to be a surviving form of an ancient supplication for rain.


Now here are some Tigre masks from these towns to get us started. I originally showed you these in October, 2014. The Tlacololeros pretend to hunt such jaguars. The first, carved from wood, is in the style of Tixtla.

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La Danza del Torito in Guanajuato

In recent weeks I presented Feo masks from Paso Ancho, Michoacán whose wearers spar with bulls. Then I introduced you to what is probably a similar dance in Charo, Michoacán. The Torito dances of Guanajuato are perhaps the most dramatic example of this genre of dances in which a bull interacts with provocatively behaving actors (Feos). In today’s post I will show some older masks from this Guanajuato version, even including a body mask worn by the Torito dancer.

Here is a Youtube ™ video of the Torito dance in San Juan de los Lagos that was performed by a dance group from Silao, Michoacán. This is a balanced performance, featuring excellent music combined with highly coordinated dancing. It is a pleasure to watch.


One of the characters in the dance is the wife of the Hacendado (the hacienda owner). She can be called Maringuía or La Bonita. In this instance (in the Silao video), she is apparently the relatively dignified female wearing a long white skirt. I have in my collection an older Maringuía mask that I purchased, along with a Hacendado mask, from Robin and Barbara Cleaver in 1989. This pair had originally been collected by Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazón in the 1960s or 70s. Here they are—El Hacendado and La Bonita from the Romita/Silao area of Guanajuato. Later I will show them in greater detail.

I feel like digressing briefly about my admired friends, Robin and Barbara Cleaver, who bought and sold ethnographic material from Mexico and Guatemala, kept some things for a time that they greatly liked, and then they would sell even these treasures for reasonable prices to raise money for other projects. When I occasionally had the opportunity to buy such material, I felt truly blessed. Such was the case when I purchased the Hacendado and La Bonita masks. Barbara had such admiration and fondness for the artistry of this pair that she had given them a special name- “the Picassos.” They have been on my bedroom wall for the last 28 years, because I like them too

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