What does Alebrije mean?

Is a colored Mexican folk art sculpture, which most of the times is very bright and full decorated. The sculpture is a fantastical (mythical) creature. Some of the people identify these creatures as “chimeras” (hybrid animal), which most of the times it’s known from Greek mythology.

The alebrijes come from an interesting and particular history.  In 1936, Pedro Linares, a mashed paper artisan from Mexico City, fell very ill because of a gastric ulcer. Unconscious on bed and with fever, he was dreaming about a strange place resembling a forest. Among the clouds, he said, fantastical and monstrous creature came alive. He saw a donkey with butterfly wings, a rooster with bull horns, a lion with an eagle head, and all of them were shouting one word: “Alebrijes“.

Upon recovery, he began recreating the creatures he saw in cardboard and papier mâché calling them Alebrijes.

Years later, Pedro Linares brought his pieces to Oaxaca (south of Mexico) and introduced the art with the local folk and he shared his designs with artisans in his village.

In San Antonio Arrazola (town in Oaxaca), a man named Manuel Jimenez was the first to create the brightly colored creatures out of copal wood instead of papier mâché. Jimenez incorporated Linares’ visions into the pre-Hispanic woodcarving tradition that already existed among the indigenous Zapotec culture of that area.  Nowadays, two Oaxacan towns, San Martín Tilcajete and San Antonio Arrazola are the masters of this art. Entire families have dedicated themselves to refining their woodcarving skills

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