Oaxaca wood-carved sculptures are colorfully painted sculptures that come from three main carving villages in Oaxaca, Mexico: Arroazola, La Unión Tejalapan, and San Martín Tilcajete. While the figures we see today show a huge range of images from animals to spirits to people, the carvings have their roots in animal figurines created by Mesoamerican and Zapotec peoples. The Zapotec used a twenty-day calendar and each day was represented by a different creature. Therefore, every Zapotec person had an animal with whom he or she had a connection, and each animal had certain characteristics that carried over to the individual as personality traits.
Alebrijes are a specific type of Oaxacan sculpture that depict imaginary creatures with elements from different animals such as dragon bodies, bat wings, wolf teeth, and dog eyes. Alebrijes were first created by Pedro Linares in the 1930s and were originally made of papier-mâché.
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