Mexican puppet company. The Compañía Rosete Aranda, under its various names, was active between 1835 and 1942 and, under new management, until 1962. This company is iconic in the history of puppetry in Mexico.
In 1830, the Italian Margarito Aquino settled in the village of Huamantla. “Don Margaje” entertained the children of the village in a kind of amusement park he had set up in his home. This is where the Julián and Hermenegildo Aranda brothers learned to make puppets that originally had clay heads and whose costumes were made by their two sisters, Ventura (Buenaventura known as “Venturita”) and María de la Luz. The Arandas began to create their first acts and “pastorelas” (pastorals; in Mexico, these were generally Nativity plays and dramatizations of Biblical stories). Even if their technique of combining string puppets and rod puppets was very basic, their talent was noticed by Don Margaje, who knew the Italian puppetry tradition and encouraged them to continue and improve in this direction.
The Aranda siblings then worked in Mexico City in the traditional corrales (old open-air theatres), in hostels for mule drivers and travellers in second-class hotels. Their puppets were a great success in Doña Andrea’s inn/tavern, a traditional place where popular shows of the day were presented and which was frequented by a certain Antonio Rosete. The latter ended up partnering with the family and marrying one of the two sisters. Around 1850, the Compañía Rosete Aranda was formally created, which was to achieve such a level of fame that they were invited in 1871 by Benito Juárez, President of the Mexican Republic, to perform their shows at the Palacio Presidencial (Presidential Palace). This company gave birth to the most famous dynasty of puppeteers in Mexico.
Upon the death of the two brothers, sisters María de la Luz and Ventura Aranda took over the management of the company and, in 1880, the Compañía Nacional de Autómatas Hermanos Rosete Aranda (Rosete Aranda Brothers’ National Company of Automatons), directed this time by the two brothers, Leandro and Tomás Rosete Aranda. The company made many tours to the United States in 1888, and on October 15, 1891, appeared at the Teatro Arbeau in Mexico City. Several more tours ensued in the country, including in Chiapas, followed by Guatemala and Central America where they had major success.
Between 1900 and 1920, the company gave performances at the Variety Theatre in Mexico City, while upon Leandro’s death the widow of the latter took over the reins. The tour continued in the north of the country, in Monterrey, Parral, Jiménez, Camargo, Chihuahua, Ciudad Juárez, Aguascalientes, León, Guanajuato, Celaya, and notably Querétaro. The company thus accumulated a rich collection of puppets (around three thousand) made with great care. They measured 60 centimetres in height, their heads were carved from ayacahulte wood, the bodies in a soft and light wood called colorín, zompantle or patol. The hands were made with a paste from a base of blanc d’Espagne (made of powdered whiting, French chalk and water), glue and sawdust. The puppets, which had movable mouths, were manipulated by strings fixed to the head, feet, hands, knees and forearms.
The company’s repertoire was varied and innovative, and included works such as La aparición de la Virgen de Guadalupe (The Apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe), Guillaume Tell (William Tell), Aniversario de la Independencia (Independence Anniversary), La pelea de gallos (The Cock Fight), El pastelero y los chicos traviesos (The Pastry Cook and the Rascals Naughty Boys), Don Juan Panadero (Don Juan, the Baker), El vale coyote (The Pal Coyote), Don Folías del pescuezo largo (Don Folías of the Long Neck). The last three very popular characters are now a part of the classical Mexican repertoire.
In 1925, Francisco Rosete, last heir of the family, took over what remained of the company and created the puppet theatre under a tent in the Barranca de San Lucas. Nicknamed “Panchito”, he worked until 1942. The company and the collection were then taken over by Carlos V. Espinal under Rosete Aranda’s same name, and became Empresa Carlos V. Espinal e Hijos: Compañía Rosete Aranda (Carlos V. Espinal and Sons Enterprise: Rosete Aranda Company). Espinal’s repertoire was adapted to the tastes of the general public – especially in the emerging Mexican television. In 1962, the Compañía Rosete Aranda gave its last performance.
The precious heritage of this more than one century-old company, consisting of more than 5,000 puppets, is now owned by the Museo Nacional del Títere – Huamantla (National Puppet Museum) in Huamantla, Mexico.
- Neve, Estelle. “Une muséographie sensible et d’avant-garde”. Mû, l’autre continent du théâtre. No. 10. Paris, THEMAA, 1998.