Considered the master of Mexican jungles, the jaguar is the largest feline in America and the third on the planet, surpassed only by the tiger and the lion. From the arid Arizona scrublands to the Misiones jungle in Argentina, the power of the jaguar extended through a vast Mesoamerican territory that, with the passage of civilization, became extinct.
In Mexico it is an animal of great symbolic importance, a metaphor of power and strength that embodies beauty, ferocity and the ambivalence of good and evil.
Its presence was constant in the religion and mythology of pre-Columbian cultures such as the Olmec, Zapotec, Toltec, Maya and Aztec. The sovereigns and great warriors incorporated jaguar’s skin, claws and fangs in their attire and weapons to invoke its power.
As a vestige of this tradition —in states such as Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guerrero— rituals, dances, celebrations and the use of the jaguar mask survive: molded in ceramic or carved in wood and polychromed with tooth, skin, bristle or mirror incrustations in Oaxaca; embroidered with beads, created by the Huicholes; the Olinalá lacquered ones in Guerrero, or the masterfully carved helmets in Teloloapan.