SAN ANTONIO ARRAZOLA
Situated down the mountainside north of the ancient city complex of Monte Alban is the village that grew up around the excavation of the ruins. Residents still walk up and down the mountain to sell their wares to tourists at the ruins.
Celebrated for decades as the nexus of copal wood carved animales the main street is hilly cobblestone. Signs of the more famous artists line the street. Freshly painted carvings are set to dry on the steps of studios that don’t have an official sign. Most of these artists carve out of their homes and are full time dedicated to the art.
In recent years the residents of Arrazola have invited muralists from Mexico City and Guadalajara among other locales to fill paint on the walls of the village so that they can further be inspired by other Indian cultures nationwide.
In the center across from town hall is the residence of one of the most respected elder artists Pedro Ramirez. He’s the goto guy for many folktales regarding shapeshifting animals, witches, and other local legends which include creatures similar to gnomes.
Some of the murals depict festivals and village life in vivid abstraction. The murals only last for a year or so before being weathered and painted over.
While walking the streets of Arrazola the ruins of Monte Alban look down on you with an almost majestic omnipotents. When the city was populated the lower valley was more marsh like but as the wetlands receded Monte Alban faded from prominence as more people preferred to live and farm in the rich soil of the valley.
On the walls of prominent artist Arsenio Morales we have two of the creatures the artist is most known for carving conejo and armadillo.
Arsenio Morales is the artist known for his animales with glass marble eyes. Here he is with an assortment of rabbits in various stages of completion. From the fine galleries of Acapulco to the museum shops of Europe his pieces are held in high regard.
On the perimeter edges of the village you can find artists who have been carving just as long but don’t advertise despite their skills being superb and worth equal celebration.
Artists like Lauro Ramirez aka Juito who’s fond of both familiar and exotic creatures and a knack for adding any species to his repertoire. He shares his studio with his family that carves elaborate unpainted natural saints for the many cathedrals in and around Oaxaca.
On the outlying roads leading to desolate places where legends of Nahuals persist you can still find artists who have dedicated their lifetime to Oaxacan Wood Carving.
Damien Morales has inspired many artists like his brother Eleazar to carve and paint. His panthers have few equals and is the only one doing elaborate spiders. Don’t you just love that buho on the left?