Alebrijes, México


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Alebrijes (Spanish pronunciation: [aleˈβɾixes]) are brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical (fantasy/mythical) creatures. The first alebrijes, along with use of the term, originated with Pedro Linares. In the 1930s, Linares fell very ill and while he was in bed, unconscious, Linares dreamt of a strange place resembling a forest. There, he saw trees, animals, rocks, clouds that suddenly turned into something strange, some kind of animals, but, unknown animals. 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 and called them Alebrijes.

His work caught the attention of a gallery owner in Cuernavaca, in the south of Mexico and later, of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. In the 1980s, British filmmaker Judith Bronowski arranged an itinerant Mexican art craft demonstration workshop in the United States featuring Pedro Linares, Manuel Jiménez and a textile artisan Maria Sabina from Oaxaca. Although the Oaxaca valley area already had a history of carving animals and other types of figures from wood, it was at this time, when Bronowski’s workshop took place, that artisans from Oaxaca learned of the alebrijes paper mache sculptures. Linares demonstrated his designs on family visits and which were adapted to the carving of a local wood called copal; this type of wood is said to be magical, made from unitado magic.

The paper mache-to-wood carving adaptation was pioneered by Arrazola native Manuel Jiménez. This version of the craft has since spread to a number of other towns, most notably San Martín Tilcajete and La Unión Tejalapan, and has become a major source of income for the area, especially for Tilcajete. The success of the craft, however, has led to the depletion of the native copal trees. Attempts to remedy this with reforestation efforts and management of wild copal trees has had limited success. The three towns most closely associated with alebrije production in Oaxaca have produced a number of notable artisans such as Manuel Jiménez, Jacobo Angeles, Martin Sandiego, Julia Fuentes and Miguel Sandiego
Alebrijes originated in Mexico City in the 20th century, in 1936. The first alebrijes, as well as the name itself, are attributed to Pedro Linares, an artisan from México City (Distrito Federal), who specialized in making piñatas, carnival masks and “Judas” figures from cartonería (a kind of papier-mâché). He sold his work in markets such as the one in La Merced.

In 1936, when he was 30 years old, Linares fell ill with a high fever, which caused him to hallucinate. In his fever dreams, he was in a forest with rocks and clouds, many of which turned into wild, unnaturally colored creatures, frequently featuring wings, horns, tails, fierce teeth and bulging eyes. He heard a crowd of voices repeating the nonsense word “alebrije.” After he recovered, he began to re-create the creatures he’d seen, using papier-mâché and cardboard. Eventually, a Cuernavaca gallery owner discovered his work. This brought him to the attention of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, who began commissioning more alebrijes. The tradition grew considerably after British filmmaker Judith Bronowski’s 1975 documentary on Linares.

Linares received Mexico’s National Arts and Sciences Award in the Popular Arts and Traditions category in 1990, two years before he died. This inspired other alebrije artists, and Linares’ work became prized both in Mexico and abroad. Rivera said that no one else could have fashioned the strange figures he requested; work done by Linares for Rivera is now displayed at the Anahuacalli Museum in Mexico City.

The descendants of Pedro Linares, many of whom live in Mexico City near the Sonora Market, carry on the tradition of making alebrijes and other figures from cardboard and papier-mâché. Their customers have included the Rolling Stones and David Copperfield. The Stones gave the family tickets to their show. Various branches of the family occupy a row of houses on the same street. Each family works in its own workshops in their own houses but they will lend each other a hand with big orders. Demand rises and falls; sometimes there is no work and sometimes families work 18 hours a day.

The original designs for Pedro Linares’ alebrijes have fallen into the public domain. However, according to Chapter Three of the 1996 Mexican federal copyright law, it is illegal to sell crafts made in Mexico without acknowledging the community and region they are from, or to alter the crafts in a way that could be interpreted as damaging to the culture’s reputation or image. The law applied to the commercialization of the crafts as well as to their public exhibition and the use of their images. However, this law is rarely enforced; most crafts sellers in Mexico rarely give the origin of their products are from. The name “alebrijes” is used for a wide variety of crafts even though the Linares family has sought to gain control over the name. The family says that pieces which are not made by them and do not come from Mexico City should state so. The Linares family continues to export their work to the most important galleries showing Mexican art worldwide. For example, “Beasts and Bones: The Cartonería of the Linares Family” in Carlsbad, California, featured about seventy alebrijes and was so popular that it was extended by several weeks.

However, because a variety of artists and artisans have been creating alebrijes in their own styles, the craft has become part of Mexico’s folk art repertoire. No two alebrijes are exactly alike. Outside of the Linares family, one of the most noted alebrije artists is Susana Buyo, who learned to work with cardboard and papier-mâché at one of the Linares family workshops. Known as the “Señora de los Monstruos” by the local children in Condesa, an upscale neighborhood of Mexico City, she is a native Argentine and naturalized Mexican citizen. Her work can be found across Mexico City and elsewhere, such as those in Europe. Her work differs from that of the Linares in that many of her designs include human contours and many with expressions more tender than terrifying. She also uses nontraditional materials such as feathers, fantasy stones and modern resins, both for novelty and for durability.

Don Quixote by Jose Guadalupe Posada
While Pedro Linares dreamed of the creatures, they did not surface in a vacuum. Similarities and parallels can be drawn between alebrijes and various supernatural creatures from Mexico’s indigenous and European past. In pre-Hispanic art, the brightly colored images were often fantastic and macabre. Influences from Mexico City’s Chinatown, especially in the dragons, and Gothic art such as gargoyles can be seen.Red cardboard demons called judas, which Linares made, are still made to be burned in Mexico during Holy Week in purification rituals. More recent predecessors in Mexican culture, artists Julio Ruelas and graphics artist/commentator José Guadalupe Posada, created fantastic and sometimes terrifying images. Alebrijes, especially the monsters, have gained a reputation for “scaring away bad spirits” and protecting the home. Some, like master craftsman Christian David Mendez, claim that there is a certain mysticism involved in the making and owning of alebrijes, with parts of certain animals representing human characteristics.

A more recent phenomenon, the annual Monumental Alebrije Parade, has been sponsored by the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City since 2007. The 2009 parade featured more than 130 giant alebrijes made of wood, cardboard, paper, wire and other materials, and marched from the Zocalo in the historic center of the city to the Angel of Independence monument on Paseo de la Reforma. Entries by artisans, artists, families and groups each year have gotten bigger, more creative and more numerous, with names like
“Devora Stein” by Uriel López Baltazar,
“Alebrhijos” by Santiago Goncen,
“Totolina”, by Arte Lado C,
“AH1N1” by Taller Don Guajo,
“Volador”, by Taller de Plástica El Volador,
“La mula del 6” by Daniel Martínez Bartelt,
“La gárgola de la Atlántida” by Juan Carlos Islas and
“Alebrije luchador” by Ricardo Rosales,
and are accompanied by bands playing popular Mexican music. At the end of the parade, the pieces are lined up on Paseo de la Reforma for judging and displayed for two weeks. The 2010 alebrije parade had themes related to the Bicentennial of the Independence of Mexico and the Centennial of the Mexican Revolution, although Walter Boelsterly, head of the Museo de Artes Populares, concedes that such may require a bit of tolerance because it can lead to revered figures such as Miguel Hidalgo and Ignacio Allende with animal parts. However, he states that the aim is to celebrate and not to mock. In addition to the annual parade, the Museum has sponsored alebrije shows such as the three-meter tall alebrije which captured attention at the Feria International del Libro in Bogotá. The word “alebrije” was not known in Colombia, so the locals dubbed it a “dragoncito” (little dragon). Along with “dragoncito” 150 other, smaller pieces of Mexican crafts were shown.



Créditos de este texto:

El alebrije es un tipo de artesanía originaria de México. Se trata de artesanías fabricadas con la técnica de la cartonería, que se pintan con colores mayormente alegres y vibrantes. Los alebrijes son seres imaginarios conformados por elementos fisonómicos de animales diferentes, una combinación de varios animales, no solo fantásticos sino también reales que forman un ser alucinante.

La cartonería, una técnica utilizada en México para la elaboración de piñatas y judas mexicanos, consiste en el modelado del papel, por lo regular papel de periódico, con cartón. En la técnica empleada para los alebrijes se usa una estructura de alambre o de carrizo sobre la que se procede al con papel y cartón; y por último, se realiza el acabado con diversas técnicas de pintura de los alebrijes.

En 1936, cuando el tenía 30 años, Pedro Linares López, cartonero de oficio y originario de la Ciudad de México, enfermó, perdió la conciencia y cayó en un profundo sueño; el cual, le revelaría unas criaturas extrañas que cambiarían su destino como artesano de La Merced. Enfermo y sin acceso a médicos que pudieran tratar su enfermedad, sus hermanas intentaron hacerlo reaccionar con remedios caseros sin resultado alguno.
Se dice que, en cama e inconsciente, Pedro soñaba con un lugar extraño e interesante, muy apacible, algo así como un bosque en el que había árboles, rocas y animales; podía ver las nubes y el cielo de aquel mágico escenario. Él sentía que todo estaba en calma, no experimentaba dolor alguno y era feliz por estar caminando en ese lugar; sin embargo, de repente,los animales se convirtieron en criaturas extrañas; se trataba de animales que no podía distinguir porque eran de una naturaleza muy rara. Don Pedro vio un burro con alas, un gallo con cuernos de toro, un león con cabeza de perro. Todos esos animales gritaban al unísono una sola palabra: ¡Alebrijes! Gritaban más y más fuerte: ¡Alebrijes, alebrijes, alebrijes! 1​

Pedro siguió su camino en aquel fantástico sueño y mientras recorría un sendero de piedras vio a un hombre que caminaba tranquilamente y le pidió ayuda para salir de aquel lugar. El hombre le respondió que él no debía estar allí todavía y que tenía que seguir andando pues a unos cuantos metros había una salida. Pedro corrió y corrió hasta que quedó frente a una ventana estrecha por la que apenas pudo escabullirse, momento en el que despertó. Pedro estaba totalmente recuperado y ya a partir de entonces empezó a recordar su sueño.​ Quería que su familia y todas las personas conocieran a esos animales fantásticos. Entonces, aprovechando su habilidad de cartonero, Pedro Linares tomó un pedazo de papel, moldeó esas figuras, las pintó igual a como estaban en sus sueños y así les dio entidad a los alebrijes. A lo largo de su vida Don Pedro Linares mostró su trabajo a mucha gente, tanto en México como en el extranjero, y fue invitado a los Estados Unidos y a Europa para exhibir sus alebrijes. Conservó las tradiciones populares que había heredado de sus abuelos y sus padres y aportó una invaluable creación al arte mexicano y a esas mismas tradiciones. Pedro Linares López trabajó jornadas de dieciséis horas todos los días hasta un día antes de su muerte, la que tuvo lugar el 26 de enero de 1992, a la edad de 86 años. Ahora, Miguel Linares, Paula García, Blanca y Elsa Linares continúan con la tradición y el trabajo que Pedro les dejó como herencia, las extraordinarias piezas reconocidas a nivel mundial: los alebrijes

En una versión distinta de la que se acaba de relatar se dice que al pintor mexicano José Antonio Gómez Rosas, apodado El Hotentote, a su paso por la Academia de San Carlos, en donde se organizaba anualmente un baile de máscaras, se le pidió que realizara una serie de telones, por lo que le encargó a su cartonero Pedro Linares que hiciera una nave y un alebrije. Ante esa petición Linares le preguntó al pintor cómo hacerlo, a lo que este respondió: “toma un Judas y ponle cola y alas de murciélago”. En las pinturas de El Hotentote suelen aparecer figuras zoomorfas y fantásticas en las que se combinan partes de reptiles, de aves, de anfibios, de insectos y de mamíferos, al igual que diferentes épocas y estilos.

A partir del sueño que tuvo en 1936 Linares comenzó a diseñar figuras extrañas y coloridas con alas, cuernos, colas, colmillos y demás. Esas esculturas fueron descubiertas por sus primeros clientes, que eran maestros pirotécnicos, y luego por la cineasta Judith Bronowski, quien dio a conocer a nivel mundial la historia de los alebrijes y al maestro Pedro Linares López a través de un documental que ella misma produjo y dirigió.
Pedro Linares recibió el Premio Nacional de Ciencias y Artes 1990 por su gran trayectoria artística y por su creación: los alebrijes. En la actualidad los hijos y los nietos de Linares, así como miles de cartoneros más, continúan con la tradición familiar creando alebrijes.
Desde el año 2007 el Museo de Arte Popular realiza el Desfile de alebrijes monumentales, conocido como Noche de los alebrijes.

Alebrijes Originales:
Los alebrijes surgieron en la Ciudad de México, en un taller del Barrio de la Merced, en el año 1936. Pedro Linares, el personaje al que se atribuye la creación de los primeros alebrijes así como la invención del término mismo, era un artesano especializado en la fabricación de piñatas, máscaras de carnaval y figuras de Judas de papel maché que solía vender en mercados como el Mercado de La Merced.Finalmente, el dueño de una galería de arte de Cuernavaca descubrió su trabajo y así fue como la obra de Linares captó la atención de Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo, quienes comenzaron a encargar la elaboración de más alebrijes. El alebrije, como tradición, creció después de que la cineasta Judith Bronowski filmara el documental ya mencionado acerca de Linares en el año 1975. En 1990, dos años antes de su muerte, Pedro Linares López recibió el Premio Nacional de Ciencias y Artes en la categoría Artes y Tradiciones Populares, lo que inspiró a otros artistas que ya hacían alebrijes también. Diego Rivera decía que nadie más que Linares podía realizar las figuras que él pedía; el trabajo que Linares efectuó para Rivera se encuentra en el Museo Anahuacalli de la Ciudad de México.

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