Photo: Ron Mader, Workshop of Gerardo Ramirez Morales and Rocio Ramirez, Alvaro Obregon #15 (Some rights reserved)
San Antonio Arrazola is the birthplace of one of Mexico’s most popular folk arts, the colorful painted wooden figures, alebrijes.
Arrazola is a quiet town at the foothills of Monte Albán.
Woodcarving was introduced in the 1950s and within a few decades reached global acclaim. It is with great pride that the city refers to itself as the cuna de alebrijes (cradle of fantastic wooden figures).
Typically carved from the copal tree (collected in the Sierra Sur and the Mixteca), the wooden figures depict mythical creations and monsters. The finest works are collected by aficionados and displayed in museums and galleries around the world.
Meet the wood carvers! More than 80 families fashion fantastic figures or alebrijes in San Antonio Arrazola. The craft was launched by Manuel Jiménez Ramírez and spread to his family and neighbors. The success led to a successful cottage industry.
The region used to be more humid. Huge Indian Laurel trees border the road into town. Years ago there were more giant trees. Formerly sugar cane fields were irrigated to produce brown sugar (panella). The land is now drier, reflecting increasing aridity in the region.
The town hosts an annual fiesta on June 11.
Nearby are the towns of Xoxocotlán, Cuilapam de Guerrero and Zaachila. Up the hill is the archaeological site of Monte Albán.
Ask the craft-maker if they can pack your purchase for shipment. There’s less chance of breakage!
The figures should never be wrapped in bubble wrap. It will mold the paint.
Also, upon bringing figures home allow them to sit out for a few weeks. Then they should be placed in the freezer for about a week to kill termites.
San Antonio Arrazola is located at the foothills of Monte Albán and 14 kilometers (8 miles) from Oaxaca City.
Public transportation from Oaxaca City is via second-class bus and collective taxis near the Central de Abasto(s). If you are driving, take the highway toward Zaachila. Take a right-hand turn before reaching Cuilapan and drive through Xoxocotlan. After 3 1⁄2 kilometers you will reach Arrazola.
FYI –Three villages in Oaxaca are known for the production of imaginative wooden figures. Those interested in this craft are encouraged to visit San Martin Tilcajete and La Union Tejalapam.
Elsewhere on the Web