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Leticia Engracia Garcia Aguilar

Colorful Ceramic Figures Represent Zapotec Culture and Community

 Once a week, Leticia Engracia Garcia Aguilar and her family grab their picks and shovels to go digging for clay on their property. After collecting raw earth, they take it to their workshop for refinement. It is ground into dust under logs, and strained to remove stones and imperfections. The clay is then soaked overnight, and the next day, it is spread across traditional Oaxacan silver mats to be stomped into a smooth, uniform paste. At the end of this physically demanding preparatory process, it is ready to be modeled by hand into the colorful figurative sculptures the family is known for making.

A fourth-generation artist, Leticia began shaping clay at six years old with the encouragement of her parents. Over time, she grew passionate about the practice, and when she married, she encouraged her husband and children to get involved. Leticia and her husband model ceramic figures and their eldest daughter and son bring the figures to life with vibrant acrylic paints. Together, they make vignettes representing their community and culture, like market vendors carrying their wares, dancing couples, and women preparing meals, as well as creatively reimagined Christian themes, such as Adam and Eve relaxing under an apple tree full of tropical birds and a devilish coral snake, and Nativity scenes that incorporate indigenous Zapotec people and imagery. Skeletal Catrinas and Dia de los Muertos altars are also popular among their creations.

Leticia says it is the family’s objective to continue and preserve the artistic cultural legacy of their ancestors, and share and transmit the knowledge and techniques of creating ceramic sculptures to their children and other young people in their community.