Wednesday, 17 April 2024
TechAlebrijes, a popular art that makes the dreams of Mexicans fly

Alebrijes, a popular art that makes the dreams of Mexicans fly

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Despite the threat of a persistent drizzle, a man protected only by a straw hat slides his bright green paintbrush over the tail of a giant figure with the head of an iguana and the body of a lizard that takes up almost the entire terrace of a house located in a popular neighborhood south of the Mexican capital.

Photo: Eduardo Miranda

Israel Mondragón makes the most of the hours of the day to finish on time his surreal work, more than two meters high, which will be part of the 200 large-scale pieces that will be exhibited on Saturday in the streets of downtown Mexico City during the fifteenth edition of the “La noche de los alebrijes” parade.

The alebrije, which is made with paper or cardboard and has a wire structure, is one of the expressions of Mexican popular art that in recent years has become popular thanks to blockbuster films such as Coco, which have contributed to spreading it beyond the borders. from Mexico the colorful creations that usually combine figures of different animals in a single body.

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Photo: Eduardo Miranda

For more than a decade, the Museum of Popular Art and other local entities have contributed to propagating the artistic branch of the “cartoneros” or “alebrijeros”, as the artisans who dedicate themselves to making alebrijes are usually called, which emerged last century in the Mexican capital, but they have expanded throughout the country.

In some regions, such as the southern state of Oaxaca, smaller alebrijes are made with copal wood, which is decorated with motifs from the mythology of the Mesoamerican Zapotec civilization, which states that humans are born accompanied by an animal that guides them throughout their lives.

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Photo: Eduardo Miranda

It is not clear how it began, but specialists identify as its precursor Pedro Linares López, a cartonero from Mexico City, who around 1936 began making the first alebrijes, a tradition that his children and grandchildren have continued to this day.

The first parade in honor of these figures was held in 2007, but they have also been held uninterruptedly at the Museum of Popular Art for 15 years, said Emilio Ortiz, social communication coordinator of the artistic center.

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Photo: Eduardo Miranda

“The parade allows artisans to pour all their creativity, all their ingenuity into making these pieces. It is a way to promote their work, as well as preserve the cardboard,” Ortiz told The Associated Press, recognizing that the event represents a very important showcase for artisans, which has even served as a springboard to take their works to France. Belgium and the United States.

Despite having participated for 14 consecutive years in the unique parade, which inaugurates the season of celebrations for the Day of the Dead in the Mexican capital, Mondragón lets out a big smile when talking about the expectations he has of seeing his work enter the plate of the Zócalo, the main square, and walk the streets of his hometown under the attentive gaze of hundreds of spectators.

“It is a very great emotion,” said the 37-year-old artisan, acknowledging that he hopes that the energy of that moment helps him put aside the fatigue generated by the 16 hours a day he has worked in the last month to complete in time to “Mr. Naughty,” a piece that shows a surreal iguana that walks on two legs while carrying a cake with its left hand and walking three dogs.

Although at first glance the figure of a fantastic animal can be distinguished, Mondragón – who has spent almost half of his life dedicated to cardboard making – prefers to identify his work as an “alebrije that has a bit of an iguana head, but at the same time He is a transformed person.”

“We make animals that don’t think they are just monsters… This alebrije is walking his dogs, he is more humanized, and he is aware that he has to take care of the cake,” said the artist, explaining that when he considered the design of his work a year ago He wanted to give it a social purpose to promote the adoption of stray dogs and cats among viewers. A few years ago he rescued three street dogs that now live with him, whom he decided to honor by transforming them into alebrijes.

The perception that each creator has of life and its environment and an unlimited imagination seem to be the marks that have accompanied Mexican “alebrijeros” since their origins, said Ortiz, recognizing that these conditions make each piece unique and unrepeatable.

Mondragón knows that well. While he puts the last brush strokes on the tail of “Señor Travieso,” the artist confesses that he hopes that his alebrije will have “its own life, its own dynamics, his own way of behavior.”

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