Alebrijes
"An ancient and picturesque tradition"

TRADITIONS OF MEXICO

If you have visited Mexico, and among your memories you have some crafts in the form of a cat with wings or a dog with six legs and that is also painted in many colors and you do not know what it is... It is about the famous alebrijes!

 

And what is an Alebrije?

First of all, an alebrije is a Mexican craft made with the technique of cardboard, it is a figure that combines physiognomic elements of several animals, whether real or imaginary in one and are characterized by being painted by an infinity of vibrant colors.

The Cartoneria

It is a technique that consists of molding moistened paper and then hardening it by gluing to create the figures. Among the most common pieces of cardboard, are piñatas, toritos, catrinas, diablitos, masks and different toys such as horses and dolls with movable joints known as lolitas.

Alebrijes
Alebrijes

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Alebrijes
Alebrijes

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Alebrijes
Alebrijes

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Alebrijes
Alebrijes

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"Linares fell ill and fell into a deep sleep, in that span of time, he dreamed that he was walking through a strange forest and found colorful creatures."

Although its origin comes from Mexico City, several states began with their own versions, as is the case of Manuel Jiménez Ramírez de San Martín in Oaxaca, who combined the tradition of carved wooden crafts of the area with the ideas of Pedro Linares.

In Oaxaca, the alebrijes are made of copal wood and are inspired by the idea of the nahuales, which are seen from two perspectives: a mythological or supernatural being with the ability to transform into an animal, as well as an element of nature related to witchcraft; or the spiritual connection between a person and an animal, the latter being a protector and guide.

Currently, there are three communities in Mexico that specialize in the creation of carved wooden figures: San Antonino Arrazola, San Martín Tilcajete and La Unión Tejalapam.

The origins of the Alebrijes

The creator of the alebrijes was Pedro Linares, an artist from the La Merced neighborhood, near the national historic center and who followed the tradition carried out by his father and grandfather.

 

His most common creations were papier-mâché objects such as piñatas, skeletons, masks and figures for the burning of Judas.

 

At 30 years old, Linares fell ill and fell into a deep sleep, in that span of time, he dreamed that he was walking through a strange forest and found colorful creatures, including a donkey with wings, a lion with a dog's head and even a rooster with bull horns.

He always repeated the same word: Alebrijes. After his recovery, he returned to work and decided to use his skills as a craftsman to replicate these creatures.

"In Oaxaca, the alebrijes combined the tradition of carved wooden crafts of the area with the ideas of Pedro Linares.."
Alebrijes of Oaxaca
Alebrijes of Oaxaca

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Alebrijes of Oaxaca
Alebrijes of Oaxaca

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Alebrijes of Oaxaca
Alebrijes of Oaxaca

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Alebrijes of Oaxaca
Alebrijes of Oaxaca

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"Little by little, the creations became more and more striking with almost impossible colors and patterns that simulated the skin of monsters, reaching what we know today as an Alebrije.."

How is an Alebrije made?

Today, some artisans extract the colors of natural pigments such as lime, honey, the same wood of the ground copal tree, cochineal grana, indigo or lemon juice.

However, in more modern times, other artisans use acrylic paint for greater durability.

The history of the first Alebrijes

The first pieces were completely different from those we know today, since they lacked the color and patterns characteristic of today's alebrijes.

 

It was from the hand of Diego Rivera, one of the greatest fans of the burning of Judas who, when visiting the workshops in the area, was attracted by these creatures of Don Pedro and took numerous of these specimens to his home and where they obtained success among his friends and colleagues.

 

Little by little, the creations became more and more striking with almost impossible colors and patterns that simulated the skin of monsters, reaching what we know today as an alebrije.

 

On the other hand, in 1975, the filmmaker Judith Bronowski made a documentary about the work of Pedro Linares, achieving that he reached the international fame with which he is known. And it was not until 1990, when Pedro Linares received the National Prize of Sciences and Arts in celebration of his career and his contribution to Mexican popular art.

The Alebrijes today

Undoubtedly, the alebrijes are part of the cultural and artistic imaginative of Mexico. And since 2007, the Museum of Popular Art of Mexico City organizes a parade of monumental alebrijes with the intention of promoting Mexican folk arts and culture.

For this parade, every year pieces up to four meters high are built that walk through the historic center of the city and this event is known as "Night of the Alebrijes".

Alebrijes Parade in Mexico City
Alebrijes Parade in Mexico City

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Alebrijes Parade in Mexico City
Alebrijes Parade in Mexico City

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Alebrijes Parade in Mexico City
Alebrijes Parade in Mexico City

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Alebrijes Parade in Mexico City
Alebrijes Parade in Mexico City

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We trully expect that you can watch it live with Us this year!

 

The streets of Mexico City will be filled with color and joy with the traditional Alebrijes Parade, organized by the Museum of Popular Art (MAP). It will be held on October 22 of this year.

At the end of the tour, the alebrijes will remain on display from October 22 to November 6.

Sources: Adapted from  https://limastulum.com/es/todo-lo-que-debes-saber-acerca-de-los-alebrijes/  april 16 ,2021 & https://www.mexicodesconocido.com.mx/desfile-de-alebrijes-2022-en-cdmx-fecha-ruta-y-horario.html

Published by DMS Mexico All rights rserved 2022

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