TRAVEL | April 24


Oaxaca, Mexico Trip Report Part 6: Barro Negro & Alebrijes

Kaye Rottingham

We kept ourselves busy and used every waking hour (and some extra hours that we shouldn't have been awake) to the fullest, but alas, it was time to leave the beautiful city of Oaxaca.

For our next journey, we opted to take a tour van through the mountains to the beach town of Mazunte. Normally, if we were just going directly to the beach, we would have caught one of the public buses there. However, I really wanted to see all aspects of Oaxaca state and the mountains were especially calling to me. Coffee farms, cabins in the woods, roaring fires under starlit skies, all the good stuff was waiting for me at the top. I definitely didn't want to risk messing it up with the stress of catching all our connecting rides on dusty roads, in the middle of nowhere.

The first stop on the ride to the beach was in the black clay (barro negro) pottery community of San Bartolo Coyotepec. We visited a small family run business and were educated on the history of the area, it's unique clay and shown the processes involved in making a decorative clay pot.

We finished our tour and I bought a black clay cactus statue to place on our piano back home. As we exited the village, we were stopped by a parade of marching musicians. To recap, we were now on on a dusty road, in a small Oaxacan town, surrounded by desert, under the hot sun and we had just been forced to pull over for a parade crossing. This seemed so "Mexican" and we had a bit of a laugh about the unexpected experience...

That was, until we realized no one in the procession was joyful. All the locals adorned frowns on their faces, as the instruments rang through the streets. This was not a happy celebration, rather a celebration of a loved one's life recently lost. So, a bit of a bummer, but it was still a marching band parade and I am not going to act like I didn't think it was totally a cool thing to get to see. I don't think that makes me heartless.

Next we headed to the village of San Martin Tilcajete to visit the Jacabo y Maria workshop. This is the crafts village known for very colourful, carved animal made from wood known as alebrijes. We saw both the students working and the masters. The masters have earned their title and their craftmanship creates something that is much more than just a cheap souvenir. It is a real piece of art. The details in the patterns, designs and the overall intricacies of the work is mesmerizing to stare at. Sadly, I could not afford one on this visit.

Finally it was time for some lunch and after eating we kept the party moving. Not bad to have already seen so much and it was only early afternoon. Definitely beats taking a taxi or the public bus and we hadn't even made it to the mountain cabin that we were going to be staying at for the night yet!