Arrazola is quite close to where I live, so today I motored over with friends for a Sunday jaunt. It's an extremely pleasant little town, snugged right up to Monte Albán, with paved streets and no litter.
At the entrance to the town are the ruins of the old hacienda which once dominated the lives of the inhabitants. The gray day, which did not make for nice crisp photos, rather suits the ruins.
As soon as I parked the car, these pint-sized entrepreneurs rushed up, eager to act as guides.
Arrazola is all up and down. The kids are standing at one end of the wall above the municipal building:
Right over their little heads is this lovely vista:
Across the street from where the kids are standing is the entrance to the crafts center. We start down 20 de Noviembre in order to make a loop through town.
A glance up at the cultural center, which consists of several small workshops. We'll wind up back here as this is the entrance and exit to the village.
Signs of the town's specialty are all over. A glimpse into a driveway reveals this disconcerting figure ~
But wait! What appeared to be an evil gnome with an axe is revealed to be a fanciful frog carrying a sign. These unpainted figures are set out to dry before being finished, which is probably why these people have a humanoid frog in their drive.
Looking up another drive, I smiled at this little girl, who immediately grabbed the puppy and posed.
These begonias are leaning over the top of a 7 or 8 foot wall!
It's almost that time! The Days of the Dead are approaching.
The sign says:
In support of a Death-Days evening party, the municipality invites participation in contests for
Costumes > children / those over 15 and Altars > registering and information with the Municipal Authority.
which will take place the 31st of October beginning at 8 pm in the municipal graveyard of Arrazola.
There are beautiful views everywhere. I got on tiptoes to take this over the top of a wall:
The streets are fairly steep.
Here's an insight into the decorative force in the population of Arrazola. This is a section of street:
We've now come around to the back of the hacienda. I don't know what was produced here that used this big chimney, nor what the morning glories hide.
Finally we see our first alebrijes -- one in a yard and one atop a post:
As I snapped a picture of the giraffe, a lady standing there pointed out the figure atop the post. She called it a monkey, so I'm going with that. She invited us to come along to her workshop, as she wanted to show the figure she had in progress.
Along the way we passed a shop open for business. Almost everything was closed up. Some days every doorway is open to a workshop/store.
The lady was quite proud of this figure. It's a cactus with a huge beehive built around it and bees all over the hive. I asked how much longer to completion and she said three days. I said that seemed pretty fast and she answered that all it lacked was to be painted. "All" it lacked?! Wait till you see how elaborately these things are painted.
Oh, I do love those. So varied. I have a couple of those Indonesian carved felines one started to see everywhere, and they are very much all the same, have become a cliché. (I didn't buy either - an arched cat who does have an interesting expression for once, and a friendly but rather standardised painted lion - certain people always buy me "cat" things, which I try to avoid having too many of actually).
Gord those people work hard - "just three days" to paint that huge beehive thing. That would take me at least two weeks, and I've painted for decades.
It is a delicate balance - Oaxaca state obviously needs income for its people, and they are doing beautiful work under what looks like decent conditions, but it does risk making the village too "touristy", with the English signs etc. Interesting to see how this will develop.
Not gauche at all -- that's a logical question. I should have checked more prices. The next time I go out there I'll do that & post it here.
In the meantime ......... I asked the lady with the cactus/beehive sculpture what she planned on asking for it, and she said 1800 pesos. That's $142.585 CAD. The piece I fell in love with, which was much smaller and created from one single block of wood, had an asking price of 1200 pesos, roughly $100 USD. (it was completely covered with tiny bumps painted a different color than the body) If you look closely at the cats in the fourth photo, Reply #4, you can see that they're marked at 70 pesos, or @$5.44 CAD. The figures on the bottom shelf in the sixth picture would be less than that.
The quality varies greatly from workshop to workshop, and you can bargain. Here's a photo from the beehive lady's workshop. Some things in the picture are probably under $2. I doubt anything in the photo sells for more than $20.
Imec, the last time I went to Arrazola for the purpose of buying was to accompany a Maryknoll friend of mine. She needed a bunch to sell at their annual bazaar in a ritzy part of San Francisco. She selected what she wanted, I bargained, then the shop owners carefully packaged each piece individually.
One of my sisters decorated her hall bathroom with them -- it's a delight to go in there. She sponge-painted the walls and on them she hung cards from Mexican lotería framed in alebrije frames, and placed a few of those curly-tailed lizards (pic 4, reply 4) here & there. On the floor is a Oaxacan rug.
Oh my gosh, LaGatta ~~ I completely passed over your reply. I am sorry!
Re: the "too touristy". One thing that makes Arrazola interesting is that they absolutely will not sell or rent to "outsiders". And that includes anyone not from Arrazola. So yes, there are signs in English, but the town truly retains its own character. It's been known as a source of alebrijes for some time, so if they were going to Disneyfy themselves, it would have already happened. One major thing about the town is how well kept it is and how many social-service things are available, such as a government sponsored program to help people build homes.
Oh, that is wonderful. One can see that the streets and little houses are very clean and well-kept.
If they have good social services, I assume there are measures to ensure that the kids who help out with the family craft also attend school.
I love the cross. I have a friend who is a nun, who taught for many years in Haiti, who'd love that. (The more hung-up type of Catholic, including the current pope, would probably find it rather heathen).
When we went into the shop portion of the second workshop (Reply #3) the lady in the 6th photo came in to tend store while we looked. I asked if a particular piece was a nahual. She said no, explaining that nahuals would usually be an animal with a human face or other features. I then asked if there were people who still held to that belief, When she said yes, I asked if she believed it, also telling her not to answer me if I was being too nosy.
She told me that yes, she absolutely believed it and that Arrazola was a center of shamanism. She made a sort of circular gesture, saying, "We are completely surrounded by witches here, all up and down the hills of Monte Albán. She told me that her husband (the man in Reply 3, pic 6) was from a shaman family and had the gift. I asked how it got developed, and she said that there were people who could recognize a child with innate shamanistic abilities, and would identify and train him or her.
Writing this down now, I am thinking that the rabbit on the town fountain is more than a rabbit, as each town has a nahual also.
I'd be intrigued to see if there are any nahuals in the parish Catholic church there. Some years ago, a friend made a documentary about the massacres of Mayan villagers in Guatemala and the search for justice, and one of the most intriguing aspect of the story was how the surviving villagers honoured their dead. They were very much Catholics, but also very much Mayans in a spiritual sense, and had many ceremonies combining the two belief systems.
Oh Bixa - I'm going crazy to come over and buy loads of those alebrijes....are they heavy? would it be possible to send lots back to the UK? I couldn't carry them all. I LOVE the jaguar. I must have him. Hopefully soon I'll speak enough Spanish to be able to converse with the artists........ (when can I come and visit?)....
I covet the toucan as well.....oh dear.....
thanks for taking those pictures....they're great.
Piss-up or no, you know you are always welcome, Spindrift. This whole valley is dotted with crafts towns. If there is interest, I'll make an effort to visit them and report back. Perhaps I should wait to see who shows up, though, as many AnyPorters take much better photos than I.
LaGatta, I have seen that fusion of pre-Hispanic religion and Mexican Catholicism in Chiapas, which is a Mayan area.
Indeed Bixa, the town is a gem! They have a great spirit of unity. The carvings are exquisite, I loved the jaguar but there were so many that I liked I would have been going back and forth to pick a purchase. Your photos of the town and the vistas are really enjoyable.
Mich, I am so sorry to only now be replying to your thoughtful post. Your comment about the "spirit of unity" is so insightful and accurate. It is funny how after looking at bunches of these creatures, one will just leap out at you and demand to be taken home.
Thanks, Cheery. Yes, come on down! I don't think I mentioned this earlier -- almost all of the very elaborate figures come apart so that they can be wrapped more easily. Horns, spines, arms -- all detachable.