Textiles and Alebrijes




Textiles are famous in Mexico, and Oaxaca has beautiful examples of different textiles. The different techniques used by the master artisans for the confection of each piece were rescued from the popular traditions inherited from generation to generation, offering each piece a unique value according to the workmanship, the material, and the historical content.

With the embroidered figures, the tinted treads with natural dyes, complex unequaled geometrical styles, the pieces become a art piece of great precision and technique. The pieces are made with a waist loom, that is why they put three pieces assembled to tailor a huipil which is a dress. Each piece has different types of stitches, some are made in a sewing machine, and others with the pedal loom, the textiles can be of wool, Egyptian cotton, coyuchi cotton, creole silk, raw cotton, all dyed with natural pigments, such as the grana
cochinilla, for red tones, and the snail for purple.

The textile museum in Oaxaca has textiles from the different regions in Oaxaca, that represent the various ethnic groups, mixteco, mixe Amuzga, Zapotec, Triqui and Chinanteco. each piece exhibits the spirit and heart of its master, and at the same time it represents the community and region where it belongs from, places like Buena Vista, San Luis Acatlan, Villa Alta, Tuxtepec, Mixteca alta, Mixe etc.

When you see textiles with geometrical designs they are Mesoamerican designs. When the nuns arrived in the XVIII century they taught the Indians to embroider flowers and birds.


Are brightly colored Mexican folk art, sculptures of fantastical (fantasy/mythical) creatures. The first alebrijes, along with the invention of the term originated with “cartonero”; Pedro Linares.

Linares tells his story, in 1943, he fell very ill, and while he was in bed unconscious, he dreamt of a strange place resembling a forest, there he saw trees, rocks, and clouds that suddenly turned into strange, and some kind of unknown animals.

“I saw a donkey with butterfly wings, a rooster with bull horns, and a lion with an eagle head" they were all shouting one word, “Alebrijes, alebrijes,alebrijes”

Before all this happened he was already a cartonero artisan. Upon recovery, he began recreating the creatures he had seen in his dreams. The making of three-dimensional sculptures with different types
of papers, strips of papers, and engrudo (glue made out of flour and water).

His work caught the attention of artists Diego Ribera and Frida Kahlo because they used to purchase Judas figures from Pedro Linares. The artisans from Oaxaca learned of the alebrijes papier-mache sculptures. Linares demonstrated his designs during a family visit and they were adapted to the carving of a local wood called copal, this type of wood is said to be magical.

In the 1990s, the artisans of Oaxaca began to use the word alebrijes to designate their figures carved in wood.

The papier-mache-to wood carving adaptation was pioneered by an Arrazola native Manuel Jimenez. This version of the craft has since spread to several other towns, most notably San Martin Tilcajete, where it has come to be a major source of income for the area.

The success of the craft, however, has led to the depletion of the native copal trees. Attempts to remedy this with reforestation efforts and management of wild copal trees have had limited success. The production of alebrijes has produced several notable artisans such as Manuel Jimenez, and Jacobo Angeles, among

The alebrijes are now world known and the artisans can make your alebrije, with your guardian animals all together according to your birth date. Alebrijes are very expensive, due to the great amount of work put
into them, but they are very much in demand.

When I was in Oaxaca there was an exhibition of alebrijes, I hope you like them.

Next video I will talk about rug making another very important
craft in Oaxaca, artisans make beautiful rugs.