From Oaxaca to New York: Casa Viviana creates candles with beeswax


Casa Viviana’s candle arrangements are directed and made by Viviana Alávez, an indigenous Zapotec in Oaxaca. Photos: Hernández Alávez Family

Casa Viviana is the workplace of a family of Zapotec origin that has been making beeswax candles for four generations. Candles are used in an ancestral process for the community’s “asking for a hand” in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca when couples are getting married.

The story of 74-year-old Viviana Alávez and her family has gone far and has gained fame in her locality and beyond, even Catbird jewelry in New York has bought their arrangements made with candles, which they proudly shared in an interview with

How was this profession born at Casa Viviana?

Viviana Alávez learned the trade of making candles with beeswax as a child, she owes the knowledge to her grandmother María Hipólito Pablo, who taught her how to do it.

At first, the family did not charge for the making of candles because it was an ancestral service to the church, where they were exchanged for food.

The trade of making candles was inherited from grandmother María Hipólito Pablo to Doña Viviana. Photo: Hernández Alávez Family

María Hipólito initially taught Mrs. Viviana how to make candles made of birds, fruits and the star flower, which represent life and the universe, where “nature has always been the main inspiration

  • For Doña Viviana, roses were a source of inspiration in her designs and, by taking apart a rose and putting it back together in wax, it was from where all the flowers that carry the traditional candles of Teotitlán del Valle today arose.

“It was there that Grandma Viviana caused a great transformation in candle making in our community of Teotitlán del Valle.”

Bibiana granddaughter of Viviana Alávez.

With the passage of time, Viviana Alávez not only learned how to make candles with beeswax, but she also improved it and decided that she could earn some income so that her family could get ahead, so one day she took two of her best arrangements with new designs to the church for people to see them and from there, they looked for it to buy them.

In her creative process, this indigenous Zapotec artisan explains that authenticity is part of the creative process and shares with the youngsters that creating is something very beautiful to experience.

“Authenticity is part of a very important process of creativity, creating authentic things is a very nice process to experiment with.”

Viviana Alávez.

How are candles made?

The whole process is handmade by hand, in Casa Viviana as they call their workplace, which is their own home, the candles are worked in a water bath, which consists of giving wax baths to the wicks, through a gourd, layer by layer until the proper thickness and size are achieved.

To make the flowers, angels and other figures, wooden and clay molds are used, removing piece by piece for each candlesome of the molds used are very old and inherited by Mrs. Viviana’s grandmother.

“I’m Bibi, I’m 18 years old and I grew up in Casa Viviana in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca. Doña Viviana is my grandmother. From a very young age, she has dedicated herself to making beeswax candles after her grandmother’s teaching. She has always created candles trying to support her family, thus rescuing the making of candles here in the community of Teotitlán del Valle, innovating and creating new and beautiful pieces ”.

Bibiana granddaughter of Viviana Alávez on Instagram.

What are candles used for?

In the community of Teotitlán del Valle, candles are used mainly in a Zapotec ritual “in asking for a hand”, where it is presented as an apology from the groom to the bride’s family for “stealing” his daughter.

The time that this Zapotec ritual takes has been part of many generations ago and has been inherited over the years.

In addition, the great meaning and symbolism of the content candle or traditional shell candle has not been lost , which is part of a great symbol of prosperity and abundance for the new couple and are the candles made by Mrs. Viviana.

Some of the models made with candles can measure more than a meter in height, although they are made in different sizes and colors depending on the destination of the arrangements. There are white or multicolored ones and to acquire them, people go directly to the house of Doña Viviana, who has become a person of great respect among the Zapotec community for preserving and enhancing this profession.

And if you are in another state and you want to purchase an arrangement of candles or just the giant candles, you can contact the family through their Instagram account, since, like the rest of the world, the coronavirus has The purchase of their candle arrangements diminished and, although they have acquired fame for their craft, they remain a humble family although their designs have traveled to New York.


The Oaxaca Post