This past weekend my class and I traveled to Arrazola, and spent the night in rural Oaxaca at the hospitality of members of the Ecoalebrije Project. The Ecoalebrije Project is similar to the weaving cooperative in Teotitlan, except their specialty isn’t weavings, but traditional Oaxacan wooden carvings called alebrijes. These figurines range from being very tiny decorative pieces to large statement pieces. While the alebrijes are indigenous to Oaxaca, in Arrazola, the people in the Ecoalebrije coalition only carve their figurines from copal wood. It is said that the EcoAlebrije artist studies the branch until he sees a shape or form emerging from the wood, then carves a figurines from a branch of the soft copal wood. EcoAlebrije artisans strive to use all the wood that is cut from the tree in an attempt to be conservative with their resources.
Clearing litter and removing the ubiquitous plastic particles from the soilNot only do the members of EcoAlebrijes strive to be eco-friendly with their crafts, and ensure the stability of the copal tree but they also are committed to environmental sustainability in their community. Some of the community work the members of EcoAlebrijes contribute to in Arrazola include:
- Moving prepared dirt and compost to various staging area
- Making and preparing containers for copal seedlings
- Nurturing, planting, and tending copal seedlings
- Transplanting rooted seedlings to hillside
- Tending to the developing copal orchard.
During our stay time in Arrazola my class helped uproot trees and replant them, as well as paint limestone on the trunks to prevent insects from biting and damaging the wood. Afterwards the artisans taught us how to paint our own alebrijes!
I think a very common ethnocentric American perspective, that I myself held previous to this experience, is that people in developing world, have enough to worry about like clean water and control of infectious disease that they don’t care about “luxuries” like recycling and the impact their actions have on the environment. How wrong was I! In my time in Mexico I’ve seen so many signs of environmental awareness aside from the EcoAlebrije project. For example in most buildings there are three trashcans, one for recycling plastics, one for organic material like fruit and nuts, and one for paper products. I have also noticed that no one uses paper towels, both in private and public restrooms people use cotton towels. It’s very interesting to me, that a country that is not considered first world, sees the importance in environmental protection even when the “enlightened” and at times patronizing U.S. still struggles with getting their citizens to recognize the value in eco-friendly solutions.