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ANIMATAZINE

EARTH

DAGOBERTO LUACES RIVERO

Dagoberto Luaces Rivero, born in Havana, Cuba, is an acclaimed theatrical director and educator. He founded the "Compañía Teatro De Bolsillo" in 2004 and received the "Rubén Martínez Villena" distinction for culture in 2009. He has extensive experience as a theater professor at various educational institutions, including the Instituto de Estudios Superiores en Artes Escénicas and the Colegio de Estudios Superior y de Especialidades del Estado in Oaxaca, Mexico.

He has directed numerous plays, such as "Macario", "Estatuas Vivientes de Barro. Viaje al Mictlán", and "Más allá del Mar de Pargos". Dagoberto is also a talented actor, with roles in various theatrical and television productions. He has attended postgraduate courses in various fields, including body expression, voice, and diction, and has conducted workshops on theater techniques and arts for early childhood.

His artistic commitment blends art, theater, and community, with a focus on the pre-Hispanic indigenous roots of Mexico, as in the project "Estatuas Vivientes de Barro. Viaje al Mictlán". Under his direction, numerous local groups from Oaxaca to Mexico City, in synergy with university communities, create and animate extraordinary living sculptures made of clay and papier-mâché that evoke Mesoamerican deities and symbols.

These works, with their strong visual and emotional impact, come to life during the Día de Muertos parades, a time when the earth, a symbol of life and renewal, takes center stage.

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Dagoberto Luaces Rivero - Estatuas Vivientes de Barro. Viaje al Mictlán - 2023

HOW DID THE IDEA TO CREATE LIVING CLAY STATUES INSPIRED BY PRE-HISPANIC MYTHOLOGICAL FIGURES COME ABOUT?

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In 2017 I was teaching theater at a university in Ixtepec, located in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico.

A few months prior, the region had experienced a devastating earthquake. In response to this tragedy, national assessors proposed that we establish connections with the still-affected community. They suggested that we create theatrical productions addressing the community's challenges.

The enthusiasm for this idea was immediate, but we lacked a clear direction and a way to connect everything around us to transform it into a theatrical performance.

One afternoon, seeking solace, I ascended to the roof of my house. From there, I gazed at the clouds, searching for signs of the gods, who at that moment, seemed to have forsaken us. I asked myself, "Where are the Zapotec gods?" and I replied, "They have finally emerged to reunite with the binnigulasa, the people of the clouds."

The gods were not in the sky; they resided on Earth and had awakened to remind us of the fragility of humanity.

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Dagoberto Luaces Rivero - Estatuas Vivientes de Barro. Viaje al Mictlán - 2023

HOW DID YOU COME TO CHOOSE CLAY AND CARDBOARD?

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is home to a population engaged in pottery, and during a visit for the purchase of some personal items, I saw the image of a doll known in the isthmus as Tanguyu.

This made me think that the gods could be represented with that same clay, much like the Chinese Terracotta Army.

However, it was necessary that they not be heavy, so that students could easily carry the masks.

Thanks to my knowledge of papier-mâché, I envisioned creating interpretations of Mesoamerican cultures using masks made of papier-mâché and clay.

I also thought of using a clay-based makeup for the participants to paint their bodies, and cotton garments with decorations also made of papier-mâché and clay.

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Dagoberto Luaces Rivero - Estatuas Vivientes de Barro. Viaje al Mictlán - 2023

WHAT DO THESE FIGURES REPRESENT, AND TO WHAT EXTENT ARE THEY KNOWN OR RECOGNIZABLE IN THEIR CORRESPONDING CULTURE?

Dagoberto Luaces Rivero - Estatuas Vivientes de Barro. Viaje al Mictlán - 2023

These figures are interpretations of Mesoamerican cultures, not exact replicas.

 

This approach is out of respect for these cultures; it wouldn't be appropriate to replicate them identically.

They represent the unique culture and idiosyncrasies of a people.

 

That's why I have reimagined them, offering my own take on their deities and iconic symbols.

 

The essence of Mesoamerican cultures is unmistakable; their ancient strength and power still resonate clearly in my masks.

YOUR STATUES HAVE BROUGHT LIFE TO NUMEROUS PARADES. DURING THESE EVENTS, WHAT KIND OF RITUALS ARE WOVEN INTO THE FABRIC OF THE CELEBRATIONS, AND WHAT SORTS OF THEATRICAL PERFORMANCES UNFOLD?

Participating in the parades was crucial for me, as they are associated with the celebration of Día de Muertos*, a profoundly significant holiday in Mexico.

These events primarily focus on honoring cultures that continue to thrive within the population, through their daily customs and practices.

There's also a theatrical element, meticulously planned and executed using a technique known as 'pasacalles.'

 

In this approach, to amplify the parade's impact, performers use slow movements of their lower limbs, creating the illusion that the statues are in motion.

 

This is combined with movements of the upper limbs and head, all synchronized with the drumbeat, which sets the pace of the procession.

*The Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) has been recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2008.

(Editor's note)

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Dagoberto Luaces Rivero - Estatuas Vivientes de Barro. Viaje al Mictlán - 2023

WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE EARTH THAT YOUR RESEARCH AIMS TO SUGGEST?

Mexico is a land of profound roots, where it's remarkable to witness the coexistence of modern, ancestral, and colonial elements in a harmonious, well-blended manner, without any element overshadowing the others.

You might find yourself in an area with cutting-edge architecture, then meander through ancient temple ruins, and suddenly realize a city subway is running right beside you.
 
The traditions in the villages are formidable; the Día de Muertos is deeply rich, with each location offering its unique interpretation.

It has evolved over time, experiencing transformations, yet all elements remain: the clothing, music, food, colors, and people's customs and practices.

The Earth was the start of this entire spectacle.

On my first visit to Mexico, I visited Teotihuacan and was awed by the two temples erected for the moon and sun; it was simply astounding.

In Oaxaca, I explored Monte Albán and later learned that villages live in harmony with their archaeological sites, preserved and still part of their daily lives.

Mexico is a land of immense power, brimming with culture and tradition, a magical place enriched with diverse voices and colors; its origins are extraordinarily splendid.

Its ancient grandeur is still mirrored in contemporary society; villages and traditions remain vibrant and alive.

It's a country where the land is always in motion, suggesting the eternal and unchanging nature of the gods.

Cultures provide daily sustenance to Mexico; traditional attire, festivals, and languages remain vibrant and proud amidst modernity.

Mexico will forever remain a surreal place where tradition and modernity intertwine, ancestors coexist with modern spaces.

It's a place where you're caught between reality and a wonderful dream.

DAGOBERTO LUACES RIVERO

Dagoberto Luaces Rivero - Día de Muertos - 2023

HOW DO THE PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE PROJECT AND THE AUDIENCE ATTENDING THE PARADES RESPOND TO THIS EXPERIENCE?

In selecting participants, I noticed they become deeply moved upon seeing the masks, which in themselves are so symbolic.

The act of applying clay to their bodies helps them transition into a different space and time.

Realizing they're part of these sculptural creations fills them with pride for a culture that brings together the living traditions of numerous Mexican states.

The parades we've been involved in are truly awe-inspiring, as they take us beyond the realm of the ordinary.

For spectators, it's astonishing to witness deities walking among them in the streets. The presence of these figures clearly evokes strong emotions, instilling pride in their heritage and culture.

Foreign tourists, too, are touched and captivated.

The audience's response has always been heartfelt and profound.

 

Their wonder enhances the performance, and it makes me proud to have been adopted by Mexican culture.

DAGOBERTO LUACES RIVERO

Dagoberto Luaces Rivero - Estatuas Vivientes de Barro. Viaje al Mictlán - 2023

WHAT FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS DO YOU ENVISION FOR YOUR WORK?

The future of this show lies in transforming it into a theatrical production where these deities can take center stage.

We are already in the process of developing this project.

I am moving forward at a deliberate pace because I am dedicating time to research Mesoamerican cultures, with the aim of accurately portraying their magnificence on stage.

There is a rich treasure trove of Mesoamerican stories that require thorough exploration for proper adaptation.

Most importantly, they must be handled with the utmost respect, as they are an integral part of a living culture experienced daily through clothing, language, customs, and traditions.

¡Viva México!

DAGOBERTO LUACES RIVERO

Dagoberto Luaces Rivero - Estatuas Vivientes de Barro. Viaje al Mictlán - 2023

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