Los alebrijes: From Dreams to the Big Screen!

There is no translation for this word, alebrijesAlebrijes are a folk art from Mexico, that depict imaginary creatures, made out of paper mache or wood. I bought one a few years ago in Oaxaca, and it was made out of wood.

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They are all over the city and a favorite souvenir for tourists to buy. They were brought to life in the recent movie, Coco, in which they act as spirit guides for the dead in the land of the dead.  img_20190505_124558

Today at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia there was a special event that feature alebrijes, sponsored by the Mexican Cultural Center for Mexican Week. This was also PECO First Sunday at the Barnes so there was free admission for everyone. Artist Cesar Viveros spoke about the history of alebrijes, there was a small exhibition and a contest, and children decorated some alibrijes by gluing on different fabrics (paints were not allowed in the museum).

Viveros explained that the alebrijes do not have anything to do with Day of the Dead, as they do in Coco. The alebrijes are a relatively new addition to Mexican folklore. Pedro Linares, a Mexican artisan born in 1906, first created alebrijes in the 1930s. He was ill and while unconscious dreamt of these marvelous beings, who called out “alebrijes”  in his dream. Once well he wanted to craft these creatures since he attributed his healing to them. From them on, important artists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera began commissioning his alebrijes and the trend took off. Now these animals are recognized and treasured around the world as Mexican folk art.