Carver Jacobo Ángeles lives with his wife María and two children in San Martín Tilcajete, one of three main Zapotec villages, most of the residents of which earn a living from carving and / or painting colorful figures, often generically referred to as alebrijes, from the branches of the copal tree. The others are Arrazola and La Unión Tejalapan.
At age 12 Jacobo began learning to carve from his father. Later on he was mentored by elders in his own and other villages. “Over the past few decades our craft has without a doubt changed dramatically,” Jacobo explains, “with the use of more synthetic paints, a tremendous increase in the range of figures being carved, and with domestic and international demand for our carvings growing exponentially and affecting how and what we produce. But remember, my ancestors were carving animals right here in this region before the Spanish arrived in Mexico in the 1500’s. And we were using only natural paint colors which we derived from fruits and vegetables, plants and tree bark, clay, and even insects. In my family we still use what we find around us to make paints for our figures.”