Mexican Artist Famous For '2,501 Migrants' Dies
July 23, 2013
Petate Productions/ American Public Televison
Oaxacan artist Alejandro Santiago (pictured working on clay sculptures) returned to his village after a decade living abroad, only to find abandoned houses, empty streets and deserted farm fields. In response, he created a monumental installation art piece comprised of 2,501 life-size clay sculptures, each representing a migrant who left his village.

A Oaxacan artist most famous for his army of clay migrants died Monday at age 49.

Alejandro Santiago was a painter and sculptor who gained international recognition for the monumental piece “2,501 Migrants.”

The Associated Press recounted Santiago’s inspiration for the project. The artist returned to his hometown of Teococuilco, Oaxaca after several years in Paris to find much of the town had left for the United States.

Later, he traveled to Tijuana to understand what it’s like to cross into the U.S. illegally.

The Rockefeller Foundation helped fund his dream to create 2,501 life-size clay figures. Filmmakers documented the process.

Santiago hired local youth to help build the clay figures. At one point, a massive rainstorm flooded his workshop, destroying 300 unfired pieces.

Santiago said he wanted to scrap the project after that, but his workers encouraged him, saying they had to finish what they started.

The clay migrants were displayed in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey in 2007. Milenio posted a slideshow commemorating Santiago and his work on Tuesday.