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Oaxacan alebrijes: magical creatures for the world

As if out of a tale full of fantasies, Pedro Linares López gave Mexican culture and craftsmanship beings that have crossed borders. It’s about the alebrijes.

As if out of a tale full of fantasies, Pedro Linares López gave Mexican culture and craftsmanship beings that have crossed borders. It’s about the alebrijes. It is said that whoever owns one of these fantastic creatures in his home, will not lack luck and happiness will always accompany him with one of these works of art, with the alebrijes.

How are alebrijes born?

Alebrije figure.

Image by AlejandroLinaresGarcia

The alebrijes are considered one of the most extravagant crafts and quoted for their great origin. Fantastic animals were full of color, unique and peculiar as much as their origin. Pedro Linares was an artisan who was dedicated to cardboard in Mexico City and gave life to these beautiful creatures in one of the hardest moments of his life. 

A journey between two worlds

Contracting an illness that had him on the verge of death, Pedro Linares fell into a deep sleep, so much so that his family believed he had died. In his wake, he woke up suddenly and luck finally smiled on him, returning from that dream with the idea that would lead him to fame around the world.

Linares began to describe that in that state of absence, he found himself in a forest full of sidewalks where he could hear noises. Wanting to discover where they came from, he managed to discover these creatures that repeated the same word: alebrije.

These extraordinary figures were donkeys with wings, roosters with horns, and others more amazing. In that same dream, a man appeared who told him that it was not yet his time to stay in this fantastic world, which brought him back to life.

Having the necessary strength, Pedro Linares began to recreate these creatures using the artisanal technique that he already knew, the cartonería, and gave them the name with which we know them today, alebrijes, the same one that these fantastic beings constantly repeated in their journey.

This craft is not as old as one might think, since they saw the light in the mid-twentieth century, becoming so popular that in 1990, it was awarded the National Prize for Science and Art. He finally died two years later at the age of 82.

These fantastic creatures quickly became popular, but it is in the state of Oaxaca that they have reached the maximum splendor. The artisans of San Antonio Arrazola and San Martín Tilcajete, are mainly dedicated to the elaboration of the alebrijes, which, unlike their creator, have used copal wood achieving carvings of exceptional beauty and mysticism.

Each alebrije is unique because they are not made with a prefabricated mold, so each person who has one of these figures, has something unrepeatable, being an exclusive product of the imagination of each creator who makes a piece.

Monumental alebrijes figures.

Image by Gzzz

Oaxacan alebrijes: mysticism full of color and meaning

The alebrijes of Oaxaca are highly valued in our country and throughout the world, since their originality and creative technique, make them works of art of the first level.

These surreal beings are increasingly present in the cultural and social collective since parades are organized with figures of monumental size in which you can appreciate their colors and engraved details managing to move society.

As with other artistic expressions, the alebrijes have gone beyond their natural form, becoming captured in urban murals, they have even reached the cinema showing this Mexican essence as it happens in the film Coco, being one of the figures that help to transit the world of the living and the dead as it happened to the father of these fantastic beings, Pedro Linares.

Set of alebrijes.

Image by Inakiherrasti

What is the meaning of alebrijes?

Alebrijes are believed to help scare away evil spirits, especially those who seem more “abominable.” These figures are considered crafts that attract good luck. In the Zapotec culture, we have the belief that each of us is born with the company of a nahual or alebrije that will accompany us throughout our lives.

In the creation of the alebrijes nothing is random since each color that carries this craftsmanship has a meaning:

Green represents nature, empathy.

Pink symbolizes love.

Orange helps to release all negative emotions.

Yellow helps to express our feelings, joy, and also luxury.

Blue represents tranquility.

Coffee helps us connect with Mother Earth and animals.

Artisan working on the painting of an alebrije.

Image by Kaari Hart

A piece of great value

These crafts are highly valued and abroad they reach a really high economic value. In our country, we are fortunate to be able to find them in the tianguis and handicraft markets with great ease.

Whether or not the legend that surrounds them and makes them really mystical is true, it is well worth the pleasure of acquiring one of these figures to have it at home and why not, give one and wish the protection and luck of those we love.

We invite you to travel:

Disfruta las raíces del mezcal, la bebida espiritual más antigua de México desde Quiegolani.

Regístrese con su dirección de correo electrónico para recibir noticias y actualizaciones. 


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