November, the Month of the Jaguar is upon us. Learn about the importance of the month from Diana Friedeberg, Panthera Mexico Director, as we honor this cat across the Americas. Find out how you can get involved.
Powerful creatures and mythical beasts, few other animals have had such strong influence both on culture and as important ecosystem regulators as jaguars. In the Americas, the culture surrounding the jaguar has permeated most ethnic groups since pre-Columbian times. The Olmec (c. 1200-400 B.C.) culture revolved around jaguars, which were heavily portrayed in their art and religion. Their creation story was rooted in the belief that they were born from the union of a jaguar and a woman, making them half felines that possessed special animal powers (Grove 1973). The Maya also connected the magnificent feline’s abilities with various natural phenomena, believing that the jaguar’s ability to see at night enabled it to move between worlds. Jaguars also became a universal symbol of political and military power which gave rulers a protective animal spirit. They were featured extensively in reliefs and sculptures in temples and palaces. Jaguars also played a highly prominent role in the mythology of the Aztec and Mexica cultures. Given that jaguar’s dens are sometimes found in caves, they were associated with earth and fertility and the cat’s dual nature represents both light and darkness, heaven and earth (Benson, 1998).
Today, jaguar culture is still prevalent in many countries and is expressed through various art forms. Walk through the streets of Mexico City and you will surely run into street art portraying the big cat, mechanic shops named El Jaguar or El Tigre as well as people either wearing clothes or accessories with a beautiful rosette pattern or some sort of feline symbol tattooed on their bodies. Does the jaguar still carry the powerful symbolism that it did in ancient times, or has it become a mere decorative element?
In a way, I find that most everyone I talk to about jaguars is immensely excited by them. On the other hand, modern society lives at an incredibly fast pace and, in many ways, has lost its connection to nature. Many people don’t know much about jaguars, nor do they care. This is where the Month of the Jaguar, this November, enters the conversation. We created this international festival, which is celebrated throughout the jaguar’s range, to celebrate and revive jaguar culture in all its expressions and to share the message of how important jaguar conservation is. We use the month of November to create public awareness through social media campaigns, raise funds through galas, art exhibitions and auctions and educate children through theater and dance performances. Over five countries and many collaborators have participated in the festivities. Each year, more and more people join us in celebrating jaguar culture.
This year, in Mexico, we are having a contest, calling on you to find your “Inner Jaguar” in our quest to find our next jaguar ambassador. To participate in this contest, we’re asking you to share a video or photo of yourself connecting with your Inner Jaguar. This will mean different things for everyone — from feeling powerful when you drop off your kids at school or cook a healthy meal, to feeling empowered and capable when you go for a run in the park or have an important work meeting. We all connect with that inner strength differently. Importantly, participants must use the #innerjaguar hashtag so our jury can easily find their posts.
We will have a collective art exhibition in Galeria Casa Diana in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico showcasing paintings, photographs, sculptures and performances. We ask attendees to dress up as their Inner jaguar. The best outfit will receive a prize. For more information on the Month of the Jaguar and the events taking place in different countries visit www.mesdeljaguar.com and follow us on Instagram at @mesdeljaguar.
Together, we can preserve jaguar culture for future generations.
Benson, E. P. (1998). The Lord, the Ruler: Jaguar Symbolism in the Americas. Icons of Power: Feline Symbolism in the Americas, 53-76.
Grove, D. C. (1973). Chalcacingo, 1138-1140.