Naked Aztec dogs looking for hipsters of all kinds
MEXICO – Totally devoid of hair, with big ears floating in the wind, the wet look of an old sage and an unpronounceable name: in Mexico, dogs xoloitzcuintles (Cho-lo-its-quouint-less) are the darling of hipsters hairy and bearded.
Black, smooth skin, they are increasingly visible in the country and especially in Mexico City, in a museum, where they rub shoulders with paintings by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
In all, thirteen of these unusual and typically Mexican dogs have the privilege of frolicking on the lawns of the Museo Dolores Olmedo, where a statue in their honor has been erected and a guardian hired to take care of them.
The choice of this dog for the family of the two artists has naturally imposed on them, kneaded that they were of their Mexican heritage.
The “xolos”, their abbreviated name, appear in their paintings, some exhibited at the museum where their descendants run.
Their origin in the region goes back 7000 years and they were domesticated for the first time about 5.500 years ago.
To name them, the Aztecs were inspired by the god of death, Xolotl, to whom they have affixed “itzcuintli”, dog.
They used to bury themselves with their xolos so that they guide them to “Mictlan”, the underground world post-mortem.
The arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in 1519 and the overthrow of the Aztecs almost made them disappear. Very Catholic, they assimilated them to pagan beliefs and ate them.
The xolo survived largely thanks to the mountains of southern Mexico, where the Spaniards made few incursions. In the wild, they were domesticated by natives.
“These farmers have kept the xolo. They raised them and adopted them as pets, “explains Maria Olvido Moreno, historian.
Back in grace
Five centuries later, the xolos return in favor, adulated this time by the hipsters with the beard impeccably cut.
Held on the leash by their masters with the desired elegance, dogs strut in the shade of eucalyptus trees in central Mexico City and in the trendiest neighborhoods of the capital.
“The xoloitzcuintle has not only served as an inspiration and a model for Mexican artists, it has also joined the list of icons of Mexican identity, much like the skeletons parading for the Day of the Dead, Frida or the Calendar. Aztec, “adds Moreno.
The lack of coat that characterizes the xolos is explained by a genetic mutation that prevents them from decoding the DNA of the fur, according to experts.
They are also known for their missing premolars that form an opening through which escapes a large pink tongue.
The temperature of their bodies is so high that in ancient times people with rheumatism or asthma pressed against them for treatment.
Their great return dates back to the twentieth century, with the Mexican Revolution of 1910 ousting the dictator Porfirio Diaz.
The new Mexican intellectual elite, of which Kahlo and Rivera are part, is reappropriating symbols of indigenous identity, especially the xolo.
“For us, these dogs are living works of art, just like the paintings of Rivera and Kahlo”, says Josefina Garcia, curator of the museum.
And in the 21st century, the xolos are fully in tune with the times and appeal to the 30-40 year old anxious to embrace their Mexican heritage.
Catapulted “official icon of Mexico City” in 2016, Ruben Albarran, leader of rock band Cafe Tacvba has made his favorite dog. “They have this connection with the Mexican culture that I love,” Albarran told AFP.
A xolo is also featured in the film produced by Disney-Pixar “Coco” in 2017, Oscar for best animated film.
“Xolos are a good choice for people interested in Mexican identity. And a dog without hair is an excellent pet for quick trips to Mexico. They can live in an apartment and are easy to maintain, “says Raul Valadez, an expert in paleo-zoology.
The proud owner of a xolo, Oscar Gamas, a 43-year-old audio designer in Mexico City, admits that he first became interested in this dog for its “symbolism”.
But he soon fell in love with the reserved, loyal and protective character of his dog, Deck. Oscar is formal: “They have a personality of their own”.