I learned about the existence of the carnival at San Martín Tilcajete from a bunch of pictures I came across just a couple of years ago. The faces portrayed in those pictures were impressive: men, women, and children characterized as demons and other weird entities with costumes made of oil, paint, and pieces of carved wood. The result was magnificent, even a little macabre, and it didn’t look like anything I’ve seen before. This year I decided to make a trip to Oaxaca during carnival week and witness this parade with my own eyes.
San Martín Tilcajete is a small town less than twenty miles from Oaxaca City. It’s in the so-called Ruta de las Artesanías (the craftsmanship route) and is widely known for its alebrijes (traditional sculptures portraying fantastical animals). Wood carving, painting skills, and great imagination are required for the production of alebrijes, and these same skills are exploited to manufacture the costumes that set the town’s carnival apart from any other celebration in Mexico.
These are the photos I took during this year’s carnival. I hope they encourage you to visit this and other towns around Oaxaca and Mexico.
After visiting San Martin Tilcajete, we made a little stop in Zaachila, halfway between San Martin and Oaxaca. A more traditional carnival was taking place here, but a picturesque one nevertheless. These are some photos for the second carnival of that day.
All photos by author.