“Spirit Guides” at the Denver Botanic Gardens

I recently had the opportunity to see the “Spirit Guides” exhibition at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Scattered amongst the plants were a series of 8 sculptures — imaginary hybrid animals inspired by the Zapotec calendar — made by Jacobo and María Ángeles of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Armadillo-Insect sculpture

Armadillo-Insect by Jacobo and María Ángeles

This colorful fellow is poised to greet you, right as you enter the gardens. As you can see, he’s a tall one.

These hybrid creatures combine two kinds of spirit animals from Zapotec legend — one represents a protective animal, the other is a spirit animal with personality traits similar to yours.

Jaguar-Eagle sculpture

Jaguar-Eagle by Jacobo and María Ángeles

Jaguars represent strength, strategy, and discipline — while eagles symbolize shrewd leadership.

Coyote-Fish sculpture

Coyote-Fish by Jacobo and María Ángeles

The patterns painted on these sculptures symbolize different aspects of Zapotec life and culture. From the plaque:

The butterfly-like pattern represents joy, the eye shape symbolizes fertility, and the rounded rectangular forms signify respect.


Rabbit-Deer sculpture

Rabbit-Deer by Jacobo and María Ángeles

This creature is a tribute to Zapotec culture’s connection to animals and nature… the rabbit represents perfectionism and attention to detail, while deer can symbolize focus and concentration.


Deer-Butterfly sculpture

Deer-Butterfly by Jacobo and María Ángeles

In this case, the deer symbolizes agility and energy, while the butterfly represents hope and optimism.

Camel-Eagle sculpture

Camel-Eagle by Jacobo and María Ángeles

The patterns on the wings of this creature represent religion, labor, and community.
The staircase-like pattern represents a temple or place of worship, the diamonds represent labor, and the shape resembling a person in a house represents community.


Monkey-Iguana sculpture

Monkey-Iguana by Jacobo and María Ángeles

In this sculpture, the monkey symbolizes knowledge and an affinity for the arts, while the iguana characterizes an ability to adapt and persevere.


Crane sculpture

Crane by Jacobo and María Ángeles

I won’t pretend that photographs can truly do the sculptures justice — if you’re in / around Denver, I’d highly recommend you swing by the gardens to see the creatures for yourself (they’re here through September 8th)!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *