Long time ago a young man named Manuel Jimenez dreamed about fantastic creatures, mixture of mammals, birds, and reptiles. He called them Alebrijes.
Maybe without noticing it, his dream allowed a tradition, an identity for a whole town, San Antonio Arrazola.
Manuel Jimenez, before inventing the Alebrijes, was already a wood carver. He elaborated wooden masks with Zompantle wood.
Some local people say that the inventor of Alebrijes used to drink a lot and it was at that time when he had the dream. Others say that he had a book of dragons from where he got the idea. Whether is true or false, nowadays many families elaborate fine Alebrijes which become one of the most important handcrafts of Oaxaca.
Many artisans run the handcrafts house where they offer their creations. If somebody ask for it, they also teach how to paint or even design an Alebrije. The handcraft house is opened after 11 a. m. the whole week.
There are many workshops in town. In fact, style and size of Alebrijes depend on the family that makes them.
The process begins in the nearby hills of the valley. The bush which provides the wood for making Alebrijes is called Copal, the same wood that incense is made of. This type of wood is soft and manageable. The carvers have to work with it before eight days from the cut because the wood turns very hard when it is dry. Then the wood is carved according to fantastic designs of animals and plants. The wood is manually carved and polished. Some figures are assembled with various pieces until they fulfill the artisans’ point of view. After that Alebrijes are colorfully painted. There are not to equals. Nowadays artisans elaborated own designs and also sculpt special designs for hotels, stores, or museums.
San Antonio Arrazola, the place of genuine Alebrijes, takes its name from its patron saint and from the Hacienda Arrazola that was established in this part of the valley, just under the drop of the hill of the tiger where Monte Alban is located. In order to visit this town, only eight kilometers from Oaxaca city, we have to take the highway which heads to Cuilapam and Zaachila and turn right after passing Xoxo Esquipulas.
Come and know the real spirit of handcrafts, and take a part of the history of the item from its roots, maybe it will decorate your home and bring you back to San Antonio Arrazola, the town of Alebrijes.
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