The MEXICO Report
By Susie Albin-Najera
Many years before his passing, I remember sitting in the humble home of Manuel Jimenez, master woodcarver and recognized as the founder of alebrijes, a celebrated woodcarving folk art with distinctive vibrant colors, originating in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.
I was not on a tour nor with a group, I was simply on foot in the small and remote village of Arrazola with a friend of mine to explore the beautiful arts and crafts that were so highly recommended to see by the locals. My friend suggested we pass by the home of Sr. Jimenez, just to say we had done so.
By chance, Manuel Jimenez was standing at his front door as if he were waiting for us. I couldn’t explain why, but the world-famous artisan invited us into his home to teach us about his celebrated craft. We spent an unexpected and intense three hours with him that afternoon, listening carefully and respectfully to his passion filled stories. When I look back on this experience, it still seems surreal.
Recently I learned that my alma mater, San Jose State University (specifically the Health Science Department), had established a unique intercambio (exchange) with the people of Arrazola, Oaxaca, Mexico, creating the SJSU-Ecoalebrijes Intercambio. Each spring, SJSU students travel to Oaxaca for education, service, and cultural exchange, while the artisans from the Arrazola and their children visit San Jose State University and sell their alebrijes and teach students about their culture.
The copal trees are native to the area, historically abundant and hold artistic and traditional significance. As the trees are so easy to carve, the Artisans use them to develop their alebrije arts.
The Sustainability Project is a committed project of the Artisans Association in planting and maintaining the copal trees. According to the site, the ecological cycle of the Sustainability Project of the Ecoalebrijes Association includes:
- Clearing litter and removing the ubiquitous plastic particles from the soil
- Moving prepared dirt and compost to various staging areas
- Making and preparing containers for copal seedlings
- Nurture, plant, and tend to copal seedlings
- Transplant rooted seedlings to hillside
- Tend to developing copal orchard
The Ecoalebrijes Association has worked with other environmental ecology groups in Mexico where they helped contribute to broad-based awareness and adoption of ecological principle.
To support this project or to make a donation, click here.