Turkeys are Red, Iguanas are Blue

Jorge Chávez
Feb. 22, 2016


Herding goats, which entails an enormous amount of doing nothing, is not one of your more stimulating activities. To relieve their inevitable bouts of bucolic boredom, goatherds have from time immemorial moonlighted as unpaid whittlers of wood.

But then around 50 years ago, the world of pro bono wood-whittling was changed forever when a Mixtec Indian named Manuel Jimenez began applying paint to his rustic carvings. Manuel’s small painted wooden animals, though lacking in “sophistication,” were irresistibly charming and jam-packed with personality. Before long, tourists were buying up everything Manuel could produce. Seeing Manuel “raking in the dough,” some of his neighbors decided to try their hands at it, too. And so was born one of the great movements in the history of folk art.

Today, in the Zapotec Indian village of San Martin and the Mixtec village of Arrazola, over 200 artisans spend their days carving and painting the colorful wooden figures, which have collectively come to be known as alebrijes. As you can see, alebrijes have evolved considerably since Manuel began to paint his unassuming stiff-legged little animals. This iguana, for example, with his amazing zigzag tail (carved from one piece of wood), possesses a sinuous fluidity never found in Manuel’s day.

But what makes alebrijes truly distinctive is the impossibly intricate painting. Using a remarkable variety of implements (tiny brushes, nails, pinheads, hypodermic needles and thorns), artisans adorn their carvings with flowers, leaves, stars, micro-dots, bubbles,
flames, half-moons, hearts and wavy lines. And though the men do all the carving, it is typically the women who do the painting; both the iguana and the turkey were created by husband-wife teams.

Oddly enough, the finished pieces are almost always signed with the man’s name, even though the “signature” is painted by the woman. If this sounds familiar (the men getting all the credit while the women


Cyndi Alpenia
Archie’s Wok

“In a meeting that we had with the magazine’s founder, he told us about his dream of making a quality and luxury publication because he was convinced that Puerto Vallarta needed that. For that reason, we have advertised in Vallarta Lifestyles since its beginnings. These days, our brand is very well positioned thanks to the strategic distribution of the magazine, as it helps us reach more potential customers which is a great benefit for us.”
David Connell
Partner and manager
Connell & Associates

“Vallarta Lifestyles has been a company that promotes a good image, which is very important to us. Companies and businesses with a broad trajectory in the destination know that this magazine helps them achieve a professional image in the market.”
Bernhard Güth
Chef and partner

“Vallarta Lifestyles, from its inception has been a quality reference. In some way, it has managed to consolidate the destination because all our restaurants where there and we communicate as an exchange platform. The benefit, besides advertisement and recommendation, is that this publication is a solid copy of Puerto Vallarta’s evolution. If you pick up an old issue, immediately you’ll recall precious memories.”