Jaguars and Culture: Public Policies for Integrated Conservation in Mexico

CEESP News - Angel Daen Morales Garcia and Jonatan Job Morales Garcia

In collaboration with the Federal Congresswoman Erika Aracelia Rodriguez Hernandez, and as part of the Biofutura A.C conservation strategies for the jaguar, a proposal was presented to declare April 23 as the “National Jaguar Conservation Day.” This was in an effort to establish synergies and foster collaboration between the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment in order to conserve jaguars with a biocultural approach.

At the festivities in central Mexico it is common for rural communities to use masks, decorations and costumes depicting the jaguar

Biofutura A.C. is an NGO committed to influencing public policies and foster synergies in support of the largest feline species in America and save it from extinction.  To this end, on December 5, 2017 a proposal was sent to the Mexican Congress: 1) declaring April 23 as the “National Jaguar Conservation Day” and 2) federal reforms were proposed to ensure that the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Ministry of Culture would develop collaborative activities to protect the jaguar taking into account the cultural elements associated with this species.

Since pre-Hispanic times, cultural practices associated with the worship of this feline have been carried out as part of an indigenous worldview.  The jaguar is considered a mysterious and magical creature and has inspired the inhabitants of Mesoamerica who in turn made many iconographic and mystical creations based on the jaguar.  Many of these representations remain an important part of Mexico’s cultural heritage even today.

The cultural practices associated with the jaguar have traditional, contemporary and living elements and are considered part of Mexico’s intangible cultural heritage. These practices contribute to a social cohesion by fostering a sense of identity and responsibility that helps individuals feel part of one or several communities, as well as society in general. It is highly representative and is seen mostly within indigenous communities throughout the country.

At the Festivities in the Huasteca region of the state of Hidalgo in Mexico, on of the most ancient and important celebration is nahnahuatilli. This celebration has pre-hispanic cultural elements associated with the jaguar (ocelot) in the form of ritual Photo: Angel Daen Morales Garcia

At the Festivities in the Huasteca region of the state of Hidalgo in Mexico, one of the most ancient and important celebrations is Nahnahuatilli.  This celebration has prehispanic cultural elements associated with the jaguar (ocelotl) in the form of ritual dances. Participants paint their bodies like that of the jaguar – which highlights the human-jaguar relationship that is still alive to this day in rural zones in Mexico (Photo credit:  Angel Daen Morales Garcia).

In spite of the cultural a biological wealth embodied in this feline species, current conditions have greatly reduced its physical and symbolic spaces. The jaguar’s magic and mystery, as well as its recurrent presence in vital cycles of cultural reproduction, will continue as long as this impressive animal lives. This highlights the need for integrative biocultural conservation activities in Mexico around the majestic feline, exhausting its current and historical importance in the development of the many cultural activities that give Mexico its multicultural character.

If the proposal is approved and published, we hope to establish the basis for jaguar conservation from a biocultural perspective, protecting the biological importance of this emblematic species as well as the tangible and intangible cultural elements that are part of the Mexican collective memory and cultural heritage.


Angel Daen Morales Garcia is the president of Biofutura A.C. and is a member of the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic, and Social Policy. 

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