These unique characters come from the beautiful central states of Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala, and they standout due to their colorful capes, tall hats and a mask with pink cheeks and a pointed beard.
They were created as a mocking recrimination towards Spaniards during colonial times, who did not allow the conquered Indians to participate in their religious celebrations, such as the joyous carnivals. The whole outfit of the chinelos is a satire ridiculing the physical appearance of the Spanish conquistador.
The outfits are a true explosion of colors. They are made up of long and heavy velvet capes with a variety of attachments, depending on the region they are manufactured in. The chinelo must also wear a mask and a tall hat adorned with stones, beads, sequin, threads, feathers and other objects.
The word chinelo comes from the Nahuatl language and it means “the one who moves his feet and hips”. The chinelos create their own party, where they joyfully dance for hours, shaking every single part of their body to the rhythm of drums, cymbals, flutes and trumpets.
Throughout the towns of Morelos, in Tepoztlan, Tlayacapan, Yautepec, Oacalco, Cualtlixco, Atlahuahuacan, Oaxtepec, Jojutla, Totolapan, among others, this joyful figures spread their jubilation to locals and visitors, who join the dance that seems to have no end.
The chinelos are grouped into drum circles, where each group represents the different municipalities of the state of Morelos. Each drum circle has its own banner guiding the group. The music band leads the drum circles, which parade to the rhythm through the town’s streets.
The procession comes to an end on the town’s main square. Here, the standard bearer of each drum circle hands his banner to the City Hall.
Then, the party begins and the crowd gathers at the esplanade. The dance consists basically of jumps, but not just any jump: Each chinelo has developed and perfected their own jumping style to the rhythm of the music.
Each outfit has a unique style. The dancers themselves design their attire, which become a reflection of their personality.
The hat, tall and with an inverted cone shape, is a parody of the eccentric hats used by Spanish women. It is made of palm tree leaves covered with fabric and richly adorned with beads and stones. The front of the hat displays mythological figures, and on the sides there are lines of color beads.
The mask simulates a face with big eyes, thick eyebrows, pink cheeks, a pointed beard (slightly curved upwards) and a moustache extending to the sides.
The cape, which makes reference to the Arab robes, is made of black velvet. It covers the neck and all the way to the ankles; it is adorned with abundant color feathers and other ornaments.
Visiting Morelos’ communities during the carnival dates and appreciating this fascinating ritual is an amazing experience; one of the most traditional customs, full of music, dance and color.