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Mystical Alebrijes came to life after Mexican folk artist’s fever dream

Alebrijes date back to 1936 when artist Pedro Linares envisioned creatures during illness

SAN ANTONIO – The Alebrijes of Mexico have a history as colorful as the art itself.

They are mystical creatures that have been transformed over decades into Mexican folk art sculptures.

Alebrijes are hand-made which means no two sculptures are alike. They can be a cat with wings, a snake with legs, or perhaps a lion with the head of a giraffe.

The origin of the Alebrijes can be traced to Pedro Linares, an artist who lived in Mexico City in the 1930s.

(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)

Linares said that in 1936 he was very ill and then became unconscious. While in a state of unconsciousness, he began to hallucinate and see visions of a forest with strange animals.

According to Linares, some of the animals he saw included a donkey with butterfly wings, a rooster with bull horns, a lion with an eagle head and all of them were shouting, “¡Alebrijes!, ¡Alebrijes!”

(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)

After he recovered, Linares recreated the creatures with paper mâché. His work caught the attention of artists from across the country, including Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

Alebrije sculptures started to be crafted mostly out of a wood called copal, which is found in the Oaxaca Valley and believed to be magical as well.

Linares died in 1992, but his fantastical creatures have lived on and had a significant impact on Mexico’s culture.

(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)

They are found throughout the country, primarily in the state of Oaxaca, and in several parts of Texas and North America.

Alebrijes were presented as spirit animals with vibrant colors in the popular Pixar film “Coco.”

And just like they are a common sight in certain parts of Mexico, they are commonly seen during Day of the Dead.

They are sometimes placed on altars and even used as decorations for the special celebrations.

Below are images from KSAT’s visit in February to an Alebrije shop in Guanajuato, Mexico.

Find more Day of the Dead stories on KSAT.com:

(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)
(Alebrijes in Guanajuato, Mexico. KSAT Day of the Dead)

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