What is a Mexican Tree of Life?

Image:​​ Mexicana Nirvana

The tree of life is one of Mexico’s most beautiful forms of folk art. 

This unique piece of pottery is renowned for its intricate detail, historic evolution, and display of spiritual and cultural devotion.

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The Rich History of the Mexican Tree of Life

A Mexican tree of life is a hand-crafted pottery display made out of molded clay. 

The display features a stump or base on which the rest of the display is supported. 

As you work your way from the bottom to the top of the “tree” you'll notice a number of figurines and intricate details all of which words together to tell a story. 

These beautiful figurine sculptures found on a Mexican tree of life are thought to have originated from Izucar de Matamoros in the Puebla region. 

In their early years, the local craftspeople created the figurines and the style of the tree off the ceremonial candelabras brought over by Spanish friars. 

Over time the intricateness of the sculpture’s design became more detailed and colorful.

Decorative sculptures made out of candelabras were known as Arboles de la Vida and it is believed that Aurelio Flores was the first potter to start crafting these decorative pieces in the early 1920’s. 

By at least the 1970’s similarly styled decorative Arboles de la Vida began to pop up in the Mexican states of Acatlan de Osorio, Puebla, and Metepec.

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What’s the Significance of a Mexican Tree of Life?

Often, a Mexican tree of life will include biblical figurines such as God, Adam, Eve, and the serpent. 

These figurines are used to depict common biblical stories including the birth of mankind, Noah's Ark, and even a nativity tree.

The serpent is commonly found towards the bottom of the tree while God is usually depicted on the top. 

The purpose of these figurines and the intricate details is to tell a story; be it a biblical story regarding the creation of life, or a story more compatible with Mexican folk art.

Along with biblical stories, a Mexican tree of life will often portray traditional Mexican folk art as well. 

Some trees will depict traditional Mexican dances, while others might pay homage to the national holiday, The Day of the Dead. 

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Mexican Trees of Life date back to pre-Columbian times with the earlier pottery displays being more in line with Biblical stories. 

As the evolution of Mexican folk art continued, so too did the displays on these beautiful sculptures. 

Over time, these displays began to include more intricate designs, patterns, and artistic elements. 

Flowers, leaves, and even animals adorn the branches of the trees. 

Today, these beautiful displays are one of the many ways Mexican tradition is put on full display, shared, and appreciated by all. 

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About the Author

Nadia El-Yaouti

Nadia El-Yaouti is a writer and photographer based out of Central Virginia. As a travel writer, she enjoys connecting readers with stories and sharing photographs that depict the beauty of different cultures. Some of her most prized work introduces readers to underrated destinations like Mexico, Kurdistan, and North Africa. When she’s not juggling work, she can be found traveling the globe with her wonderful husband and three darling children.

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