The history and tradition of puppetry in Tlaxcala is very old, as explained by Fausto Hernández Muñoz, director of the National Puppet Museum “Rosete Aranda”, who indicated that “there is a record in the archaeological zones of Xochitécatl and Cacaxtla del finding articulated figures with fertility and ritual themes ”, which is why the puppet has existed for centuries in Tlaxcala and has always been a link between men, through which the stories of the world were expressed.
Over the years, the puppets became an instrument for teaching and subsequently for entertainment.
Therefore, they were used during evangelization, so there are puppets with the figure of clergymen and religious. In the Magical Town of Huamantla, Tlaxcala lived the Aranda family, which in 1835 was invited by the priest of their region to set up a Christmas nativity scene. The brothers Julián, Hermenegildo, Buenaventura and María de la Luz accepted and created clay dolls with joints that gave them movement. In this way, their vocation arose, which would lead them to invent the “Mexican crosshead”, a mechanism that gives the puppets greater movement.
Therefore, they were used during evangelization, so there are puppets with the figure of clergymen and religious people.
In the Magical Town of Huamantla, Tlaxcala lived the Aranda family, which in 1835 was invited by the priest of their region to place a Christmas nativity scene. The brothers Julián, Hermenegildo, Buenaventura and María de la Luz accepted and created clay dolls with joints that gave them movement. In this way, their vocation arose, which would lead them to invent the “Mexican crosshead”, a mechanism that gives the puppets greater movement.
From 1835 to 1839 the Aranda family made small presentations on farms, such as Don Margarito Aquino’s, and in 1840 they founded their puppet company called “Los Marciales”, however, they established a fixed show until 1845, in the municipality of San Agustín de las Cuevas, what is now known as Tlalpan.
This would be the beginning of the company, which, according to Hernández Muñoz, “created three thousand puppets, with which they gave various functions, bringing folkloric paintings, classic stories and popular content to the public that always amazed young and old.” In 1850, Antonio Rosete and María de la Luz Aranda got married and their family business was puppetry art.
For this reason, his company changed its name to “Rosete Aranda”. In 1861, the family business grew and took the name of Compañía Nacional Mexicana de Automatas “Rosete Aranda”. From 1862 to 1872, the Rosetes Aranda were invited with their show by Benito Juárez to the National Palace . In addition, they were praised by intellectuals such as Manuel Altamirano, Guillermo Prieto and Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera.
In 1888 they surprised the public when they incorporated an orchestra with 40 musicians dressed as charros and went on tour to the United States, where they conquered the stages. Munati, guardian of artistic heritage In August 1991, the Rosete Aranda National Puppet Museum was created in Huamantla, a space where puppets from this company and other puppetry groups from Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia are exhibited . At the beginning, the site only had 450 pieces.
According to the director of the Rosete National Puppet Museum, “the cultural venue has 2,500 pieces in its collection, from pre-Hispanic times to contemporary puppets, although there are 650 on display and the rest are in the depository.”
This museum, colloquially known as Munati, has undergone renovations and currently has 18 permanent rooms and two rooms for temporary exhibitions, where different manipulation techniques are shown, such as the glove, rod, string or marionette puppet, as well as mixed techniques such as Bunraku, Mouths and direct manipulation puppets.
Without forgetting the shadows. Inside the creations, the figure of a Bullfighter and a Negrito standout, which are 45 centimeters high, have feet and hands made of clay, Ayacahuixtle body and on their faces, they present fine details. In the middle room are the pre-Hispanic pieces found in the archaeological sites of Xochitécatl and Cacaxtla.
In other rooms you can find Jorge Negrete, María Victoria, Agustín Lara, among other artists from the past. The stored puppets have special conditions, among them, humidity and temperature control , as some are made of delicate materials such as clay, gold and silver thread, as well as ancient textiles.
If any piece requires repair, it is left in the hands of the National Center for the Conservation and Registry of Movable Artistic Heritage (Cencropam). In this enclosure there is a closed theater with 69 seats and an open one that can hold up to 160 spectators. In this last space the independent local companies give functions as part of the program. In addition, it is a forum for expression and learning because they give workshops for puppeteers and citizens.
Festival with healthy distance “In 1983 the International Puppet Festival was created locally, whose purpose was to promote and disseminate culture, and from 1988 it adopted the name ‘Rosete Aranda’. It has two editions and it is an international event as it includes companies from all over the world ”, explains Fausto Hernández.
This 2020, due to the pandemic, the 35th edition will be held digitally from October 16 to 29, where local, national and international companies participate, in a program that presents 3 to 4 functions a day. When asked about this new format, Hernández Muñoz pointed out: “It is a challenge, which leads us to be like a balm of family union, and also shows that the puppet does not lose its playful and didactic character. Its function is to show different worlds that link us as humanity ”.
After the inauguration, Russia will open the curtain with Viktor Antonov who will present “Circus on the strings” and companies from Germany, the United States, Argentina and Taiwan will participate in the rest of the festival, as well as from Mexico City, San Luis Potosí, Morelos and Guanajuato.
One of the most important activities of this edition are three special conferences: “35 years after the Rosete Aranda International Puppet Festival”, “The importance of puppets in current education in Mexico” and “The Rosete Aranda Brothers in Huamantla”.
In keeping with the season, there will also be an exhibition entitled “The trip to Mictlán” and the festival will close with the presentation of the “Rosete Aranda” award, which has been awarded since 1993 to the most outstanding puppet art. Finally, it was reported that this edition requires the sum of the efforts of many Tlaxcalans hands, some in production to record functions and conferences, others in post-production, and a digital team that will upload all the materials to the platform.
There will even be augmented reality and QR codes so that people from their cell phones can see the semblance of the winners of the “Rosete Aranda” medal over the years. “This will be a great show. They are all invited ”, concluded Fausto Hernández.
Crisis for artists Rocío Juárez is a teacher and puppeteer from Huamantla. She learned the trade at the Munati in the 1990s when she brought her daughters to the inauguration of the venue, where she took expert workshops and fell in love with puppetry. For Rocío, the world of puppets is special: “It is inexhaustible because you suffer, have fun, laugh and learn to reflect, and you also manage to express your feelings (…) As a puppeteer, you still present yourself in a small square or in a theater that has all the requirements of lights, sound and stage, but in all scenarios you give your best so that people have the same fun, ”he says.
Given the situation derived from covid-19, he comments that many of his colleagues ran out of forums to present themselves. “Fortunately, the situation is improving and the Tlaxcala Institute of Culture began to perform virtual functions and that was a light for some colleagues, as they could have a salary.” Therefore, he asked the Tlaxcalans to attend puppet shows in this new normal, because in addition to entertaining themselves they will help many families who depend on this activity.