Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Alejandro Santiago: 2500 + 1 Gone!

Alejandro Santiago (1964-2013) was a highly-trained and well-known Mexican artist. He was born and raised in Teococuilco in the state of Oaxaca. You might be thinking, "Why does that matter?"

It's because Santiago returned to his hometown after spending several years in Europe studying art, only to find that half of the population - some 2,500 people - had left. He had come home to a shell of a town. Most of the working age population had emigrated. Those who remained were either old or children who had been left with grandparents. Some of these emigrants would die in the desert, but against their poverty it was a chance they were willing to take.

In a dream, Santiago saw a way to repopulate those 2,500 souls plus his own to the town. With a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation and 35 workers, he created 2501 clay sculptures. No two figures are alike.

Santiago personally shaped each one in a crude way to represent the native people and the hardships of their lives, both in Mexico and in the United States.


Once the 2500+1 figures had been displayed at various galleries, Santiago placed them in Teococuilco to celebrate the "migrants' return." Or as one curator described these sculptures, " if to summon the absent ones."  

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