San Martin

On Saturday, after intercambio at the library, I decided to go to San Martin Tilcajete, one of the pueblos dedicated to carving and painting alebrijes (magical animals made of the wood of the copal tree). It is a short walk through farmland to the center of the town. My companion on this adventure, S., commented that it was a refreshing break from the traffic and noise of the city. S. had never seen San Martin Tilcajete and had never seen how the villages are organized around the production of a particular artistic or other type of product.

I was happy to introduce S. to some of the artists I know in the community, but the two families I have spent the most time with seemed wrapped up in other business including fighting tour companies entering their village, the ones that take tourists to only one or two families. While I was interested in hearing about their work, I also wanted to say that it was likely to be as successful as one of the marches I had seen earlier in the day.

I had the difficult task of picking out alebrijes for people who wanted them back home; this was difficult, so if you’re one of the people waiting for your treasure, S. picked it out!

In one of the shops, S. convinced the couple to turn over their brushes and paints to him. He was overcome with the urge to paint: the wood pieces, the walls, the senora’s hair! They laughed and said they are also inspired by their artform.

On the way out of town, we saw a tractor on one side of the road and two young men with two bulls and a plow on the other side. They were straining hard under the sun. We inquired whether we might take a photo of them. One guy asked: Los toros o los bueys (a slang term that is bull but is used like dude)? He asked it rhetorically. But I responded, “Los dos.” (Both.) And, he said to his friend, “Ella entiende.” (She understands.) They let us not only take their picture, but they invited us to pretend to drive the bulls. S jumped at the chance to pretend wield the stick (just as he had the paintbrush), and one of the dudes even plopped his sweaty sombrero on S’s head!


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