Oaxaca's Tourist Guide
Oaxaca's Tourist Guide


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Tradition in black earthenware
Teotitln del Valle rugs
Teotitln del Valle rugs
Teotitln del Valle rugs
Boy painting an alebrije
Nativity set made of earthenware
Triquis women
Woman weaving
Girl with waist-loom
Wooden masks
Wooden toy
Huipil from the Valley
Dyed wool
Flower vases
Wooden dragon
Mural painting
Blouses from the Valley
Craftswoman from the Coast

Handicrafts "Dreams on a Heritage of Centuries"

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Oaxaca is one of the richest States in popular art. The manifestation of its handcrafts traditions and creativeness are broad and extend throughout the State. There is practically no raw material (fabric, wool, clay, iron, precious metals, etc.) That does not have a unique manifestation in Oaxaca, aided by the artistic talent and imagination of its creators, respecting always, traditional techniques that distinguishes Oaxaca internationally. One of the most striking examples of imagination coupled with artisan tradition is found on textiles. Fabrics and wool have been worked for centuries, aided by telares de cintura (waist looms), this stuff, bayonets, and natural colorants from the famous grana cochinilla that generates the color red to the magical purple snail, milked to obtain that color. The work is evident in the rich indigenous attire, amazing blouses, skirts, and shawls of the Coast and the Tehuantepec Isthmus. Here, we can appreciate commerce influence from the Orient on the Huipiles de la Sierra or, on the sarapes of the Central Valleys. Oaxaca, on the other hand, is one of the few producers of coyuchi cotton whose natural colors vary from light brown to red. The bud of this cotton variety is so small; it is impossible to work it industrially

The woodwork is also internationally recognized. Its inspiration clearly comes from daily life. There are skeletons and devils, because there are festivals where they are used, such as the Carnaval or All Saints Day; there are kings and bethlehems, music groups, nature, animals. Some common animals (armadillo, iguanas, snails, cats) have been transformed into fantastic beings: the alebrijes, the latest example of Oaxacan artisans ability to join tradition and poetic fantasy, creativity and respect to a heritage centuries old.

Most Popular Handcrafts

Alebrijes are brightly colored representations of imaginary animals made out of copalillo wood. Each piece is signed by its creator because it is unique and unrepeatable. Manuel Jimenez, an artisan from Arrazola, was the original creator of this art form thirty years ago, when iguanas transformed in to dragons or armadillos dressed with rainbows began to flow from his hands. Among the current alebrije artisans that stand out are Arsenio and Irene Morales, Alvaro Obregon, Claudio Ojeda, Andres and Miguel Ramirez, and Jos Santiago. The community specialist on alebrijes is Arrazola, located near Oaxaca on the road that leads to Zaachila. Other communities that also work wood in other regional and creative forms are La Union Tejalapan and San Martin Tilcajete.

Pottery techniques are of long tradition in Oaxaca. Pottery makers specialize in two genuine techniques: green glazed pottery clay from Atzompa and black ceramic from San Bartolo Coyotepec. The technique to make green glazed is totally primitive based on a pattern over which the piece formed so big that occasionally, the wheel can not be used. Black clay is extracted from a place nearby San Bartolo Coyotepec. The clay has special properties that once baked appear on its color and the crystalline sound, both unique to this ceramic worked with completely indigenous forms and styles. Santa Mara Atzompa is located 4.98 miles (8 Kms.) from the City of Oaxaca on the road to Monte Albn and San Bartolo Coyotepec is to the South of Oaxaca at about 7.46 miles (12 kms) on the Carreterra Federal 175.

In the Valley of Oaxaca there are numerous artisans still working green reed in the traditional manner. The result is manifested in various forms-- cages, baskets, lamps, candy dishes, curtains -- which are offered in the principal State markets.

Steel artisans have their own alloys whose formulas they have kept secret through generations. The handle materials are bones, mother-of-pearl, or deer antlers. Some knifes have legends with sayings, poems, or witty notes written on them.

Iron Work
Wrought iron was introduced in Oaxaca during colonial times and made famous the ironwork from Juquila and Jamiltepec, with its famous coastal machetes and artistic fences of Tlacolula.

Jewelry has been cultivated in Oaxaca since colonial times and it is still performed with many traditional techniques and tools. Among the wide design variety the reproductions of the jewels found in Monte Albn are especially striking.

Leather Work
The industry of tanned leather in the Ejutla and Jalatlaco tanneries at one time exported their creations throughout the world. At present, the embroidered machete covers are notable, saddles, and the complementary line of luggage, handbags, belts, or briefcase. The process to tan leather takes from a month and a half to two months and the work (salted, aired, tanning the hides with water and alum, refined, exc.) is completely traditional.

Oaxaca impresses visitors with the quality and originality of its traditional textiles manufactured with ancient looms (some of them pre-Hispanic) and stained with natural dyes. Textiles are available at all marketplaces. The sarapes (small decorative rugs) are one variety very typical of the Teotitln del Valle community.