Tonas and Nahuales. Alebrijes: history, tradition and innovation

Alebrijes are wooden pieces of art, mostly carved in copal, a very smooth wood. Its origin is not precisely known: the “official” discourse says that during the eighties a gentleman called Pedro Linares –from Oaxacan origin, although residing in Mexico city– was sick, and during a high fever got the “enlightenment” of bizarre figures with lots of colors. He started producing them with cardboard (“Paper mache”) but soon after traveled to Oaxaca and started producing them with wood.

In our theory (we have collected oral tradition in past researches), these pieces are far more complex and interesting: they would be the result of the syncretism between the Pre-hispanic era and the Spanish Colony. Interested in finding out? Get ready for this circuit!

We will not visit San Martin Tilcajete int the classical way: instead, we will first visit the Hernández family, carvers from generations who understand wood as a part of the essence of history, forest and old traditions. They communicate with wood and thus create their pieces based upon this feeling of life. His pieces are not “terminated” of perfect: they reflect his own view of life. We will visit the family and see their different products but also enjoy his company and his family’s, who will also offer us a mouthful of their gastronomy: “My house is large enough to fit all our friends”, he said when we first talked about this project. Since then, we got captivated his animus and philosophy of life.

Our visit includes also a short stopover in the Popular Art Museum, located in San Bartolo Coyotepec and then we will head to Vicente’s. After a couple hours that include some appetizer we will visit the “other side of the coin” in alebrijes making, with the atelier of Jacobo and Maria, an enterprise with a completely different philosophy. Jacobo and Maria are visionary people who mix art and the finest form of production. Their products travel around the world and have even inspired important films such as “Coco” (Pixar Studios, 2017).  At the end of the visit, we will stop in a near restaurant for lunch.

An additional note: San Martin Tilcajete is trying to get the “Pueblo Mágico” recognition (a type of certification provided Mexico’s Tourism Ministry to “magical” towns), which is causing a complex process of change to the locality, where some artisans do take the opportunity, while others prefer to keep on their traditional way of life. This is a special place to discuss the pros and cons of globalization. Wouldn’t it be nice to be here to talk about it?

Of course, you will have enough time to acquire alebrijes of very different prices and qualities.

Length: 6:30 hours.

Complete Journey

Productos adicionales

  • Comida en restaurantes del área (1:30 hrs)
  • Visita rápida a los textiles de Santo Tomás Jalieza (1:30 hrs)