Alebrijes of Oaxaca

Alebrijes of Oaxaca: Discover the History


A little on the history of the Alebrijes of Oaxaca: Its origin is due to a strange dream that Pedro Linares had when he became seriously ill in his early 30’s.

Hanging between life and death, Linares could not avoid suffering from hallucinations, one of which allowed him years later to become one of the most important personalities in Mexico.

The first creatures of Pedro Linares were made with paper mache, it was not until years later after the first Alebrijes, that the population of Oaxaca, especially the artisans, began to use wood to carve the alebrijes and paint them with striking colors , with the passage of time people began to call them Alebrijes of Oaxaca or Alebrijes oaxaqueños.

Soon people began to realize the enormous success that these small pieces could have, so whole families of artisans dedicated to handicrafts with papier mache or wood, made the decision to incorporate the creatures of the Linares dream. Currently they are one of the most sold and popular crafts of Mexico, distributed throughout the world.

In Oaxaca the Alebrijes are made with copal wood, the carving technique is an ancestral tradition, which has managed to grow even more in these current times, through the creation of the Alebrijes, which have managed to earn with hard work, tradition and genius, the hearts of people around the world.

The Alebrijes of Oaxaca are the representation not only of ancestral techniques or the dedication of the artisans who work in them for a long time, they are also the representation of innovation, the soul of the artisans of Oaxaca and of course the hard work done all manually.

Manuel Jiménez Ramírez is considered the creator or founder of the Alebrijes de Oaxaca, born in San Antonio Arrazola, is considered the father of the Alebrijes of this area of ​​the country.

Jiménez took the concept of Linares, but introduced the concept known as Nahual, which within the culture of our country (Mexico) is the representation of a mixture between human and animal.

Nahual is considered as a kind of personal protector, which is attributed to each person depending on the year and the day in which we are born.

The figures created are achieved through the carving and treatment of the copal wood, which is collected from the mountains, and then transported manually, on the back of the collectors to later lower them to the village and proceed with the process.

The wood harvesting trips for the Oaxacan Alebrijes are made every day, since the wood is only manageable and soft when it is still green, once it matures it becomes very complex and hard, which prevents work.

Each of the artisans has a special technique to decorate their creatures, some use different mixtures of color, others use shapes, figures and brushstrokes that help create textures or drawings that make them look much more interesting and striking for people.

All the charm and magic that surround these figures that have animal and mythological forms lies in the imagination and the color that the artisans put into it, that is the part that most emphasis is given in the creatures. There are no limits for the Alebrijes of Oaxaca , the limit is the imagination of each of its creators.

Learn more about the Culture of Oaxaca.

About the author

This article was written by Ian Hayden Parker, Oaxaca Life staff writer, the leading source for English news in Oaxaca, Mexico.