Matthew Belanger

new media artist

Raymundo Santiago

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I began shooting this documentary when I first visited the small town of Arrazola Oaxaca, Mexico in 1999. After a dog chased me through a door and into a stranger's yard, the Santiago family immediately 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 alabreje. Brightly colored, alabreje are typically animals, both real and mythical. Nearly every family in Arrazola produce alabreje. Few, however, display the type of artistry that the Santiago's possess. Their work can be seen at: santiagoalebrijes.com.

Cirilo, the father, is the subject of this ten minute excerpt of a planned 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 shot and edited this excerpt with the translation assistance of Edward Griffis. He and I have continued to visit the Santiago family to acquire new footage and to keep in touch with them.