traje de luces


A while back I was commissioned to do a short video on a tailor who specializes in making suits for bullfighters. Daniel Roqueta has been making trajes de luces, or suits of lights, for more than 25 years. I followed the process over several weeks, starting with the selection of materials and colors by bullfighter Carlos Gallego, the making of the suit, right up to the day Carlos wore it for the first time in the ring.

Music: Nerva, performed by Soria 9 Sevilla

Special thanks to Daniel Roqueta, his team, and Carlos Gallego.

What is a Traje de luces?

The Traje de Luces or suit of light is the traditional clothing that Spanish bullfighters (toreros, picadors and rejoneadors) wear in the bullring. The term originates from the sequins and reflective threads of gold or silver. These trajes are based on the flamboyant costumes of the 18th century dandies and showmen involved in tauromachia, which later became exclusive to the bullfighting ritual. Later adornments include the montera hat, elaborate embroidery and decorative accessories.

(Source of information is from wiki click to learn more.)

Manolo Sanchez - Traje de Luces

A Traje de Luces (Suit of Lights) is traditional bullfighter’s clothing worn in the bullring. The gold or silver trims and sequins reflect strongly in the sunlight, hence the name.
They are custom made to the person wearing it. Like a tattoo, the different patterns and designs embroidered into it could be something meaningful to them, or mean nothing at all.

Manolo’s was made to match the guitar Maria gave him.
I did my best to transfer what his outfit would look like from a wooden piece to real clothes. 

The Snake Scene

They say this is a fan analysis. I agree.

Never trust trailers. We all sat down for the first time thinking Manolo would be the one and only to die at the fangs of that snake. Maybe we were expecting the simplest of scenes: the guys kneels, the girl cries.

Nope. Once again, everything is perfectly crafted like a series of 20-something paintings per second.

By the time we get to the proposal, we’re already calmed down by Diego Luna’s voice and all the pinks and purples of the landscape as the sun dawns.

As the proposal goes on, Manolo and Maria are pretty much inside that big sun that almost makes you squint. The sun and the candles and all the sudden yellows are warming you up.

But this intense brightness fades just after the snake, a bright purple snake(which fits in the color scheme but still stands out as brighter - meaning perhaps that it belongs in this scene but is a key element and a dangerous one. Not to mention poisoness animals usually come in vibrant colors) rolls out of the dark.

The snake is present in the most ancient cultures. You can see this one has a native Mexican design. The two heads are in fact pretty representative of its good versus evil character. But evil is a lot more associated with snakes, and treachery.

So far the snake is corresponded by Maria’s reactions and not Manolo’s. She’s the one in charge of the outcome of this scene. You can also see that now the colors are fading and turning dull.

Manolo’s leg offers your brain some unconscious alarm with its bright magenta taking over the shot.

Soon enough the scene hits a wall of slow motion. Purple is sneaking in and darkening everything. The landscape is suddenly surreal, and you suddenly understand you’re in Manolo’s POV. Not only the surrealness you often find in the mystic stories of the desert is present in how he’s seeing things but it’s pretty much how things suddenly seem when things like this happen. It feels like the air is liquid. 

It’s Maria’s POV that follows, also reaching out to Manolo, kind of being the last thing she sees:

Also in slow motion. Notice how this shot is so darker. The tree, the cactuses and Manolo’s traje de luces, and also the purple sky. Everything is falling appart.

Manolo knee slides, but ironically, it’s not for fun or showing off. He enters the shot and slides to Maria, who’s the central figure. If you think about it, it’s the first time their bodies are so close. So far, Manolo has been on a lower level than Maria and they almost kissed but didn’t. They stand close in her house, but not lovingly. It is only with the proposal that they hold hands. A kiss or a hug would probably follow. But the snake gets in the way and when the first time Manolo can hold her in his arms and close to him comes, she’s dead. After her return, I mean. As kids they hugged and held hands all the time, which turns it into a pretty innocent relationship, and that comes with this childhood-like openness and sincerity.

Later on when he’s holding her I can’t understand if he holds her closer at Posada’s OHNOOOO… Maybe he just shifts his head. I like to think it’d be a nice detail:)

Meanwhile, the movie seems to have turned into a Romantic painting full of beauty and chaos:

And there’s that scream.

That amazing, perfect, unexpected, heartbreaking lonely cry for help.

What's in a name?

So we all know the Adelita twins are a reference to the badass soldaderas from the Mexican revolution and I think it’s fairly well known that Xibalba is the name of the underworld in certain mayan myths. But I’ve been thinking a lot about what some of the other names or references might be in the movie.  I don’t have the art book (YET!) nor have I see this mentioned elsewhere so I could be totally wrong but it’s still fun to think about.

Manolo Sánchez: Juan Manual Sánchez Moro aka Manolo Sanchez is a real life torero from Valladolid, Spain.  You can see him here wearing a black traje de luces that seems reminiscent of the one Manolo wears in the movie in my opinion.

Joaquín Mondragón: Manuel Mondragón was a federal military officer during the Mexican revolution who was particularly famous for designing the M1908 Rifle and a 75mm howitzer. He was a Porfirist and there is speculation that he was responsible for the assassination of Francisco Madero, president and leader of the Maderista faction during the revolution.  I think it’s particularly interesting that he would have definitely federal military ties as opposed to one of the other factions. Also check out the ‘stache.

Posada family: José Guadalupe Posada was a famous political print maker who has had an influence on many artists. He’s particularly well know for his 'calaveras’ stylized skeletons now commonly associated with día de los muertos. Of these, Calavera de la Catrina is particularly important and easy to recognize as inspiration for the character of La Muerte as well (she called La Catrina in the Spanish dub too)

Finally San Ángel: I believe Jorge Gutierrez said he grew up in the San Ángel neighborhood of Mexico City so that takes care of the name but what about the place?  Mexico City is actually in a forested area that doesn’t look much like the town in the movie.  Enter Janitzio.  A small island/town on Lake Pátzcuaro in the state of Michoacán, it sort of looks like it was dropped straight into the movie and they’re well known for their traditional celebration of día de los muertos including a procession of candle lit boats (the only way on and off the island as well)

And those are just the things I’ve been speculating on.  As I said I could be wrong and if anyone wants to point me in the right direction I’d be glad to learn more.

“They’ll Write Songs about You”

This fan finds a voice through Manolo’s daddy issues.

Thank you very much for your suggestion, elderberrymoon! I shall now analyze the scene in which Manolo and Carlos walk down (twice) a street of San Angel that is filled with Sanchez flyers.

So, here’s another mega scene analysis about Manolo and Carlos. I love thinking about them because I always dig up things that I never imagined.

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