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The folk art of Mexico, renowned throughout the world, has always provided a window into the life and culture of the Mexican people. The many indigenous craft villages surrounding Oaxaca are a highlight of a trip to this beautiful colonial city, where one can visit the homes of the artisans to watch them create their work.


Since pre-Hispanic times, Mexican artisans have worked in wood, crafting everything from furniture, tools, and utensils to children’s toys and ceremonial masks. Today, traditional carvers in three small, rural villages nestled in the rugged hillsides of Oaxaca — Arrazola, La Unión Tejalapam, and San Martín Tilcajete — produce some of the most captivating contemporary Mexican folk art.

While the Oaxacan woodcarvings are now known as “alebrijes,” that made-up word actually originated in a fevered dream of the Mexico City papier-mâché artist, Pedro Linares (1906-1992), who then created the fantastical creatures remembered from his dream.


Brilliantly colored and strikingly designed, Oaxaca’s wooden figures (“figuras de madera”) are rooted in aspects of daily life; others are wildly imaginative, springing wholly from the realm of the imagination. 


San Martín Tilcajete, 23 km from Oaxaca city, is a picturesque small pueblo with a population of only 1,900. Most of the families who reside there make their living from a combination of subsistence farming and woodcarving. 



streets in Oaxaca

Mexico’s love of bold colors are apparent in the streets of the city and in the simple, but brightly painted houses in the village.

San Martín Tilcajete main plaza

street in San Martín Tilcajete

Oaxaca has the greatest number of indigenous groups of all the states in Mexico, the largest being the Zapotecs. They built the pre-Columbian archaeological sites of Monte Alban, their main political and economic center, and Mitla, the principal religious center. Today, their Zapotec ancestry inspires many of the designs the San Martín Tilcajete artisans use to decorate their carvings.

Mitla

The Dancing Chickens of Ventura Fabian: 

The Visiting Mexican Artists Program

the art and craft of Oaxacan woodcarving 

through direct contact with the artists

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The Dancing Chickens of Ventura Fabian: 

The Visiting Mexican Artists Program 

the art and craft of Oaxacan woodcarving 

through direct contact with the artists

© 2021 Nina Hasin  All Rights Reserved

info@thedancingchickens.com