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Day of the Dead

The Story of Xolo: A Q&A with Lourdes Villagómez

By: Lodge Cast Iron / July 26, 2023

To celebrate the launch of the new Xolo Dog Cast Iron Griddle, we sat down with Mexico City-based artist Lourdes Villagómez to learn more about what inspired her to create the artwork on this special edition piece of cast iron. Read on as Lourdes shares background on this fiercely loyal breed of dog, what the Xolo signifies in Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos celebrations, and what she hopes people will take away from this creative collaboration.

Day of the Dead Celebrations
Lourdes Villagómez

Can you tell us a bit about this new piece?

My latest artwork features a striking portrayal of a Xoloescuintli dog—also known as the Xoloitzcuintli or Xolo—adorned with a skull on its face, accompanied by vibrant marigold flowers. These elements hold immense importance in the celebration of the Day of the Dead. As I delved into its origins and customs, I discovered that the Xolo has been an integral part of this commemoration for centuries. 

In pre-Hispanic times, the Xolo was believed to be a sacred companion that guided the souls of the deceased through the afterlife. Their sleek, hairless appearance was thought to allow them to act as a bridge between the living and the spiritual realm. As a Mexican artist deeply connected to my cultural heritage, I find inspiration in the traditions and significance of the Xolo dog.

"It was believed that these dogs could help guide the souls of the departed through their journey in the afterlife."
DOTD Xolo Dog

What do the different elements in the griddle artwork represent?

The painted Xolo symbolizes the spiritual connection between the living and the departed, while the skull represents the cycle of life and death. The presence of marigold, known as the cempasúchil adds a touch of vivid color and pays tribute to the tradition of adorning altars and graves during this commemoration. Through this piece, I aim to capture the essence of this cherished Mexican festival and its symbolic significance in a visually engaging and meaningful way.

How is this artwork connected to the Sugar Skull Skillet you created last year?

This year, as I continued to explore the richness of [Day of the Dead], I felt compelled to expand upon the story I had started with the previous artwork. By adding the Xolo to the collection, I aimed to strengthen the narrative and further connect the spiritual aspects of the tradition. The Xolo, known as a spiritual guide and protector of souls, complements the sugar skull's symbolism perfectly, as both represent the profound connection between the living and the deceased.

What do Xolo dogs signify in your culture?

The Xolo dog holds a significant and revered place in Mexican culture. With a history dating back over 3,000 years, this ancient breed is deeply intertwined with the country's traditions and mythology. In pre-Hispanic times, it was believed that these dogs could help guide the souls of the departed through their journey in the afterlife. Their unique appearance was thought to enable them to traverse the realms of the living and the dead, acting as a bridge between the two worlds.

Beyond their spiritual significance, Xolo dogs were highly esteemed by various indigenous civilizations for their healing properties. It was believed that their warm touch could alleviate pain and ward off ailments. Today, the Xolo remains a symbol of loyalty, protection, and a connection to Mexico's pre-Columbian roots. Efforts to preserve this ancient breed have helped maintain its cultural importance, and many people still regard them with great respect and admiration.

In modern times, the Xolo has also gained popularity as a breed loved for its uniqueness, elegance, and gentle temperament. Its presence in art, literature, and various cultural expressions continues to celebrate and honor the breed's role as a symbol of Mexican heritage and the enduring spirit of a truly extraordinary canine companion.

Day of the Dead Griddle / Comal

What inspired you to honor the Xolo dog in this piece?

Learning about this deep-rooted connection between the Xoloescuintli and the Day of the Dead, I was captivated by the symbolism and the role these dogs played in the spiritual journey of departed souls. It struck me as a potent representation of the unbreakable bond between life and death, and the profound respect Mexicans have for their ancestors and the cycle of life.

Creating art centered around the Xolos has become a personal mission, not just as a means of artistic expression, but also as a way to preserve and celebrate this significant aspect of Mexican culture. I hope that my creations not only resonate with viewers on an aesthetic level but also inspire them to learn more about the rich heritage of the Xoloescuintli and the Day of the Dead. Through my work, I aspire to keep the legacy of the Xoloescuintli alive and foster a deeper appreciation for the unique cultural tapestry that makes Mexico so vibrant and diverse.

"Sharing my culture in my art allows me to preserve and pass down the stories, rituals, and symbolism that have been cherished for generations. It serves as a tribute to the wisdom of our ancestors and keeps their memory alive."

What role do Mexican artists play in preserving aspects of culture, like Xolo?

Art has the power to transcend borders and language, enabling me to connect with people from various backgrounds and share the essence of Mexico's vibrant cultural tapestry. Through my work, I hope to instill a sense of pride and appreciation for Mexican traditions, fostering understanding and respect for the cultural treasures that often go beyond what the eye can see.

Moreover, sharing my culture in my art allows me to preserve and pass down the stories, rituals, and symbolism that have been cherished for generations. It serves as a tribute to the wisdom of our ancestors and keeps their memory alive.

Ultimately, sharing my culture in my art is a way for me to celebrate my identity, inspire others to embrace their heritage, and contribute to a more diverse and interconnected global artistic landscape. It is a journey of self-discovery, creativity, and a heartfelt invitation for others to join me in celebrating the beauty and richness of Mexican culture.

Celebrate Day of the Dead
Contributed By: Lodge Cast Iron

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