The amazing alebrijes

By Roger Vela

These amazing figures were born through a dream that their creator Pedro Linares had in 1936 and with the passage of time they began to become popular in various states of Mexico.

Alebrijes are crafts composed of strange figures that are part of Mexican traditions and culture. We can find them in various shapes and sizes. But perhaps what is most surprising is their incredible diversity of cheerful colors that make them unique.

In them, we can find fantastic figures mixed together, such as a lion with eagle feathers and a giraffe neck or a dragon with mouse ears and a monkey’s tail. Alebrijes are perhaps the most surreal and striking art figures made in Mexico.

Behind the manufacture of these crafts, there is a cultural richness that is connected with the ancient pre-Hispanic people such as the Zapotec.

For this reason, in the municipality of San Martín Tilcajete, located in Oaxaca, entire families participate, inheriting this technique from generation to generation. There they are made by hand and for their elaboration they use a log of wood, paint, sandpaper, wedge and machete.

Alebrijes can have different textures such as feathers, tree shapes, or borders that are geometric lines that meet at right angles.

How alebrijes are made?

Step 1. The first step is carving. To start carving in the trunk, you have to visualize what figure you want to make and based on the shape that was chosen, you start carving without the help of any machinery and without the help of any mold, everything comes out of the imagination. At the end of the carving, a mark with the date is put on it to know how long the wood will be left to dry.

Step 2. In the second step, the wood is scraped with the wedge to form the reliefs and define the shape of the figure with more details.

Step 3. Since the shape of the figure is perfectly defined, the wood is polished with sandpaper to leave the surfaces smooth and without splinters.

Step 4. A sealer is placed on the wood to better fix the paint.

Step 5. Three coats of the base paint are placed on the figure.

Step 6. Finish painting the alebrije with different colors and shapes. Here creativity plays an important role because through different styles, an infinite number of strokes can be created to form fantastic figures. The smaller the piece, the more decorations it should have.

Step 7. In the last step, the paint should be allowed to dry.