San Martín Tilcajete
San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca, Mexico
Photo by Suzanne Barbezat
Fanciful WoodcarvingsThe residents of San Martin Tilcajete (a village about 14 miles south of Oaxaca city) specialize in woodcarving. The fanciful wooden animals they create are sometimes called "alebrijes" They are usually carved from the wood of the copal tree from which they also extract the sap to use as incense. The copal is a particularly twisty tree and the carvers use the natural shape of the wood to inspire them when forming their pieces. The carvings are painted with tiny, intricate patterns.
Although you can purchase woodcarvings at shops in Oaxaca city (and throughout Mexico, for that matter), on a visit to this village you can see the woodcarvers at work and gain a deeper appreciation for the craft and all that goes into it. Many families in San Martin Tilcajete carve and paint, and on a walk through the village streets you will see lots of signs inviting you to just go on in to the family workshops to see them at work and browse their finished pieces.