“My name is Clemente Rodríguez. My son, Christian Alfonso Rodríguez, has been disappeared since 26 September . Since then we have had no news of him, we have seen nothing of my son, and I have been searching tirelessly for him. Since that date I have gone to Iguala, looked for him at the army headquarters, in hospitals, and I have even gone, with the other families, to the surrounding hills to look for him in the clandestine graves there, but found nothing. We are demanding that Peña Nieto [The president of Mexico] finds the 43 normalistas, but he gives us no hope. Peña Nieto says little more than that they are looking around some of the illicit graves they have found and that the Iguala police are going to search the clandestine graves. To tell the truth, I maintain my position, it is what my hearts tells me, just the same as is the case with the other parents, that our sons are alive.
“Before the 26th [Sept. 14], our homes and our lives were happy. They have taken away my son’s ambition in life; to be a professional. He wanted to be an agronomist”.
I haven’t been able to find much out about Christian other than he is a popular student at the Escuela Normal in Ayotzinapa. He comes from Teposocla, near Chilapa, a village described by Clemente as a place where no more than three people have gone to study and whose inhabitants are mostly illiterate. According to his fellow students, he is nicknamed “Hugo” because he has a couple of “Hugo Boss” shirts. He is also described as someone who liked the traditional danzas of Guerrero. These dances include Los Manueles, Los Diablos and Los Tlacololeros. I make reference to the Dance of the Tlacololeros here in a blog about Martín Getsemany Sánchez García, another of the disappeared Normalista students.
In this portrait I have placed Christian between two roles from the dance of the Tlacololeros; As a Tlacololero (a famer who cultivates the tlalocol, the name for the terraced hillside fields) and as a Tigre (a jaguar) who appears when the farmers burn the dry foliage in their fields. The Tlaocoleros represent different crops, such as maize, tomato, chile, beans as well as the elements. They are accompanied by La Perra Maravilla or magic dog who will help defend their land from El Tigre. These dances belong to the ritual calendar of agricultural fiestas in Guerrero, the belief being that they ensure healthy crops and a good harvest at the end of the growing season. These fiestas are religious occasions which also involve prayers, offerings and a communal feast.
The Tlacololeros were originally known as Zoyacapoteros (origin: Nauhatl for someone wearing a cape made of woven palm, or zoyate). Today the dancers wear capotes made from hessian sackcloth but these would have originally been made from zoyate. They wear carved masks and wide brimmed hats often decorated with marigolds. The tigres also wear carved masks and are dressed in yellow which is printed with circles made by the necks of bottles dipped in the ashes of a fire.
I don’t know if Christian would have danced with the Tlacololeros and the Tigres but the dance is one which represents campesinos, and the traditions of Guerrero. Many of the boys at the Escuela Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos come from rural, campesino settings so it seems fitting to take some of this agricultural symbolism and ritual to use in the portrait of Christian.