Alebrijes, when dreams become art (2)

Alebrijes, when dreams become art (2)

Los Alebrijes de Oaxaca

Although the variety of pigments that can be created from the copal as varied as we can imagine, you can check to see the hundreds of pieces that exist in each workshop, all relatives, where no two pieces are alike. On the one hand, the invention of alebrije is just under 100 years and it brought new vigor to the following generations of artisans, who flourished largely thanks to the marketing their work. On the other, we can confirm that in Oaxaca archaeological remains which show that these fantastic beings, whether they are called alebrijes or not, have existed between the people of the Central Valley since 2300 B.C. As Elpidio Fabian Ojeda, member of the Artisans Community Tilcajete said: The mud and wood figures show that our ancestors were the first to capture these fantastic beings and translate them into something tangible.

And who knows, perhaps in ancient humans lived with the alebrijes, in this or other worlds, as did Pedro Linares, or as in many legends that occupy our imagination thanks to the talent of the artisans of Oaxaca. Jacobo Angeles ensures that he is not craftsman or artist, that his job is to carve nahuales, known in his village as ketones which according to Zapotec cosmology are animals that are assigned to men from birth, depending on the day and year, marking his life and influence until the end of his existence .Jorge Luis Borges wrote in the Handbook of Fantastic Zoology : Ignore the sense of alebrije as we do not know the meaning of the universe , but there is something in its image that matches the imagination of the men , and so the alebrije comes in different latitudes and ages, as it were, a necessary monster, not an ephemeral monster as casual as the chimera or the catoblepas.

We would add to this that they are loved and cherished crafts: beautifully shaped and gorgeous colors that always please the eye. The alebrijes are, by themselves, a cultural value of Mexico to the world.

Alebrije: wood carvings from Mexico
Alebrije: wood carvings from Mexico

Facts and trivia

  • It is said that the word alebrije is a Gitano word adapted to Castilian slang meaning something tangled and confusing or fantastic type. In the dictionary of the Royal Academy of Spanish Language, alebrije is defined as 1. m . Mex. Clay figure painted in bright colors, depicting an imaginary animal. Therefore, we can conclude that alebrije is the proper name distinguished by the craftsmanship; but where it took off in Spain as an alebrije made of mud? Possibly you may have them in other states in Mexico, but the originals are made of paper mache or copal wood.
  • Pedro Linares Lopez worked 16-hours every day until the day until his death on January 26, 1992 at the age of 86. To this day his children Miguel, Blanca, Elsa, and Paula, as well as twenty grandchildren and apprentices, continue the tradition of alebrijes made of paper mache, as taught by its creator.
  • The Alebrije Fair in San Martin Tilcajete, Ocotlan, is celebrated each year from mid-December until early January, with the presence of dozens of family workshops dedicated to this
    craft production.
  • Each alebrije took Linares two weeks to finish, consuming a lot of paper, cardboard and glue, while Jacobo Angeles can take up to six months to finish a piece, due to the amount of processes implemented and the size and shape of the figure.
  • The filmmaker Judith Bronowski unveiled the story of alebrijes and teacher Pedro Linares Lopez worldwide, through a documentary she produced and directed.
  • By initiative of the Oaxacan painter Rodolfo Morales and support of the Fudación Alfredo Harp Helu, hundreds of hectares have been reforested in the region with thousands of copal and ocote plants. A copal tree seed reaches the ideal height and thickness at the age of 7 years, so now the local craftsmen bring their raw material from a glen in Huatulco and other towns of the Valley.
  • Pedro Linares exhibited his creations in museums in the United States and Europe and in 1990 received the National Prize of Sciences and Arts for his great artistic career and creation.
  • Major orders of Oaxacan alebrijes come from abroad like the United States or Germany, although these creations are sold in major tourist destinations in Mexico, from La Paz to Cozumel. Artisans from San Antonio and St. Martin Arrazola Tilcajete seek certification of origin of the product for which they have the support of the Oaxacan Institute of Handicrafts.
  • Since 2007 the Folk Art Museum has organized every October, near the end of Day of the Dead , the monumental alebrijes parade through the streets 5 de Mayo, Juárez, and Paseo de la Reforma to the Glorieta del Ángel de Independencia. This event is known as the Night of the alebrijes.
  • The production of Oaxaca alebrijes is maintained not only by the residents of Arrazola and Tilcajete but young people from nearby villages also come to learn and preserve the tradition from places such as San Pedro Guegorexe , San Jacinto or San Isidro Chilateca Zegache.
  • It is said that Pedro Linares regained his health thanks to one of those photographers of the time who went from house home offering to amplify and color pictures of deceased relatives. The strange man offered to help the sick, even without pay, smearing all over the body an ointment. Then he left a kilo of powder which was to be taken during the month and only 3 tablespoons a day because it was dangerous. The funny thing is that according to the photographer, the ointment was made with herbs from Oaxaca, the place where the Linares alebrijes would have a new life. If this happened, it was certainly a good exchange or not?
  • The copals are tress of the genus Bursera which are typical of the deciduous forests and in Mexico there little more than 100 different species. Copal has different names depending on the species and region: virgin copal, holy copal, tecomaca and almárciga, among others. Most copal produces flowers at the beginning of the rainy season, in late May and early June, appearing at the same time as the branch of leaves. Flowering is both rapid and into late June and no green fruit.

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