Death and beauty

by Francisco Méndez

Neuland (Ausgabe II/2016)


A Xoloitzcuintle, known as the Mexican hairless dog. Illustration: Stephanie F. Scholz

If the Aztecs knew one thing about the hour of their death, it was that they would not start their last journey alone, but with company. A dog would guard their soul until they entered the underworld. They were referring to the Xoloitzcuintle, the Mexican naked dog. In the death cult of the Aztecs, the breed, which has been around for more than seven million years, has an almost religious meaning - even if one ate one of them every now and then during a sacrifice.

The Aztecs also believed that the Xoloitzcuintle could cure all ills. Sick people slept with it in a bed and pressed it to themselves to alleviate pain in a magical way. Later on, their importance almost spelled the dogs’ doom: When the conquistadors became aware of their key role in the Aztec faith, they tried to exterminate the breed. But this did not succeed, and so you can still admire the Xoloitzcuintle today, especially at dog shows: The hairless and wrinkled skin, which in ancient times earnt the animals unflattering nicknames like "dwarf horses", "fools" and "deformed", has become an ideal of beauty. It shines like bronze, which at first glance gives the Xoloitzcuintles an almost statuesque appearance. Today the dogs are also known as the heraldic animal of the "Xolos", a Mexican soccer team from Tijuana.

Translated by Jess Smee

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