Matthew Belanger

new media artist

Raymundo Santiago

I shot this short documentary when I first visited the small town of San Antonio de Arrazola, Oaxaca, Mexico in 1999. After an angry dog serendipitously chased me through a door and into a stranger's yard, the Santiago family of artisan woodworkers took me in, and began telling me about their lives and their art.

The Santiago's produce a unique style of painted wood carving, known as an alebrije. Brightly colored, alebrije are typically animals, both real and mythical. Nearly every family in Arrazola produce these alebrije. Few, however, display the level of craftsmanship that the Santiago's possess.

Cirilo, the father, is the subject of this ten minute excerpt from a larger project. He speaks with passion about the alebrejes his family works to produce. Cirilo then carves a small turtle to illustrate his skill with the machete as other family members paint other carvings.

I edited this documentary with the translation assistance of Edward Griffis. He and I have continued to visit the Santiago family over the years to acquire new footage and to keep in touch with them. The Santiago's alebrije can be seen at: