The Borderlands - Local Culture

Local artist creating alebrijes -folk art sculpture of imaginary animal
Oaxaca, Mexico. Desert landscape with mountain behind the city of Oaxaca
Oaxaca, Mexico

Much of this documentary was shot in Oaxaca, in the southern part of Mexico. This region is one of the world's great centers for crafts and folk art, with a history reaching back more than two thousand years. The traditions are very much alive today! Many villages here specialize in a single craft: pottery from local clays; weaving from sheep's wool; basketry made of palm frond; or alebrijes.

View video: Oaxaca, Mexico.


In the village of Arrazola, many families have home studios where they carve copal wood from nearby forests into alebrijes (ah lay bree hays). Other family members do the intricate painting that bring these imaginative carvings to life. These wooden creatures - monsters, animals, and everything in between - are popular with tourists for their beauty and authenticity.

An alebrije rabbit with long stretched out legs
An alebrije rabbit
A very colorful beetle like alebrije
An alebrije beetle
Image of a finished iguana
A finished iguana
Image of an alebrije wolf
An alebrije wolf
An alebrije of a lizard set up against a wall
An alebrije of a lizard
Many variations of alebrije ranging from crosses to human figures
Various local art works
local artist painting details on alebrijes using a very fine tip pen
Artist painting alebrijes
Local artist sketching on copal wood to create alebrijes
Artist starting to make alebrijes

3-D Ribbon Weavings

Priscilliano, like many from Oaxaca who now live near the US border, supports his family by weaving little animals and baskets and selling them in Ciudad Juarez. "For us, [weaving] is like an inheritance that our grandparents left us. And we go out into the city and find ways to earn money with our work. Because we know there are others that don't know where to go or what to do. They don't have money and they don't know where to work to earn some money. But at least we can trust that we know what to work on. Even though we know we will struggle, at least we know that we can weave this little animal and go to a house and sell it and earn 5 or 10 pesos and then share it with the family. View video: Priscilliano Making a Weaving.

Priscilliano making a weaving
Priscilliano making a weaving
Three deer like finished ribbon weavings
Finished ribbon weavings
Rosalina sells a weaving to customers
Rosalina sells a weaving

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