Alebrije . Mexican crafts made from different types of paper.


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  • 1 Alebrije
  • 2 Emergence
  • 3 Origin of the paper Alebrijes
  • 4 Location
  • 5 Development of the Alebrijes
  • 6 Sources


The alebrije or, less correctly alebrige, is a recently recognized Mexican handicraft invented by Pedro Linares López in 1936 in Mexico City, made of different types of paper (technique: cardboard) or carved and painted wood with cheerful and vibrant colors. They generally represent an imaginary animal, made up of physiognomic elements from several different animals.


Its origin in what refers to ” painting and paper ” is found in Mexico City , Mexico City and its creator: Pedro Linares López says that, being very ill on the verge of death, he dreamed that he was in a forest where he saw these beings who accompanied him on his way back to consciousness and also heard a group of people shouting: “Alebrijes”, “Alebrijes”, hence he used this word he heard in his dream to name the figures he saw.
Despite this, the wood carving in these handicrafts comes from the ancestral Zapotec era, in the picturesque city of Oaxaca , Mexico .

Origin of the paper Alebrijes

Alebrije on paper

Pedro Linares began as a “cartonero” artist who lived very close to the heart of Mexico City, (behind the Mercado Sonora), in the Merced neighborhood of Balbuena , Mexico City, making Judas masks, piñatas, and dolls for local festivities and in other states of the Mexican Republic.

In 1936 , Linares had a dream where he saw animals with strange figures, colors and wings, horns, tails, fangs and others. These sculptures were discovered by her first clients who were pyrotechnic masters, then by the filmmaker Judith Bronowski who, through a documentary that she herself produced and directed, the story of the alebrijes and Master Pedro Linares López , were known worldwide .

Pedro Linares received the National Award for Science and Arts 1990 for his great career and his creation: alebrijes. Today, the children and grandchildren of Linares continue the family tradition by creating Alebrijes.
Origin of wooden Alebrijes
Alebrijes represent the innovative and unreal spirit of the Oaxacan soul by forming figures obtained after manual carving and painting.
Wood carving is an ancient Zapotec tradition, which reaches its maximum expression with the production of alebrijes; Unreal and magical pieces out of the imagination of the Oaxacan artisan, the alebrijes represent the innovative and unreal spirit of the Oaxacan soul by forming figures obtained after manual carving and painting.

Mr. Manuel Jiménez was the forerunner and the only artisan who made this type of figure and his work became famous throughout Mexico.
“Alebrije” is a word in caló (adopted gypsy language) that means “difficult tangled thing and of a confusing or fantastic type”, and Arrazola is a Basque name that should have been the encomendero of the area.
The Zapotec does not have the “R” on its soft tongue. The name “Alebrijes” and the background of his fantasy design were copied from the “Alebrijes” of the Linares family that he and his children made in Mexico City in the workshop they had next to the Sonora market, at the end of the Avenue.

Three young and talented artisans Arsenio Morales, Andrés and Miguel Ramírez, who worked together with Álvaro Obregón, expanded the creation of these figures, which are extracted from the branches of the trees they collect in the mountains, which they carry on their backs to take them to town. These trips make them daily, since the wood can only be carved when it is still green.

The various shapes of the branches of the copal invite artisans to make with their imagination and with the help of machetes and razors animal figures such as: lions , jaguars , iguanas , dogs , snakes , birds, goats and a variety of fantastic figures. Imaginary, these jobs can take hours or days, depending on the complexity of the design and finish.

The Arrazola figures painted in different colors are later decorated with fine star-like drawings or floral drawings.
The charm of the figures is that they have the shapes of animals, extraterrestrial beings, naguals, angels or something unexpected. Animals like armadillos and porcupines are unmatched.
The only limit is the imagination used. The cost of the pieces varies according to the originality of the work.


This handicraft can be located in two main towns: San Martín Tilcajete (it is located south of the City of Oaxaca, 29 kilometers along Federal Highway 175 to Puerto Ángel ; approximate time: 0:35 minutes) and San Antonio Arrazola (It is located southwest of the city of Oaxaca, 10 kilometers along the paved road towards Cuilapán, then take the deviation to the right for 5 kilometers past the town of Xoxocotlán; approximate travel time by car: 0:15 minutes).

Development of the Alebrijes

Alebrije representing a bee

They were carved for luck or religious purposes, as well as hunting traps. The figures were also carved for children as toys, a tradition that continued well into the century. After the ship became popular in Arrazola, it spread to Tilcajete and from there to a series of other communities, and now the three main communities are, San Antonio Arrazola, San Martín Tilcajete and La Unión Tejalapam, each of which has developed his own style. Carving wooden figures do not have a name, so the name “alebrije” was eventually adopted for any carving, the brightly colored figure of copal wood, whether from a real animal or not.

To make the distinction, the carvings of fantastic creatures, closer to Linares alebrijes, are sometimes called “Martians” (literally Martians). Oaxacan alebrijes have eclipsed the Mexico City version, with a large number of stores in the surroundings of the city of Oaxaca selling the pieces, and it is estimated that more than 150 families in the same area earn their living by making the figures. Wood carving, along with other Oaxaca crafts, grew in importance as a state open to tourism.

This began in the 1940s with the Pan American Highway and has continued to this day with the construction of more roads, airports, and other transportation coinciding with the growing prosperity of the United States. and Canada, making Mexico an affordable exotic vacation. Oaxaca wood carving began to be purchased in the 1960s by hippies .

Before the 1980s , most wood carvings were the natural and spiritual world of communities, with farm animals, farmers, angels, and the like. These pieces, now known as “rustic” (Nisticò), were carved and painted in a simple way. Later known for their alebrijes, sculptors such as Manuel Jiménez de Arrazola , Isadoro Cruz de San Diego , Martín Tilcajete and de La Unión began carving animals like the young, often while doing other chores, such as tending sheep. In the 1960s and 1970sThese sculptors had enough of a reputation to sell their work in Oaxaca City. As more shipping distributors to other parts of Mexico and abroad visited rural villages, more exotic animals, such as lions, elephants, and the like, have been added, and eventually came to dominate the trade. Finally, traditional paintings gave way to acrylics as well. Another fact that encouraged wood carving were the artisan contests held by the State of Oaxaca in the 1970s, which encouraged carvers to try new ideas in order to win prizes and sell their pieces to state museums.


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