This article, originally published in 2011, is well worth repeating today. The 12th annual Desfile de Alebrijes Monumentales (Giant Alebrijes Parade) will take place on October 20, 2018, starting at 12:00 noon. This year's parade expects more than 200 entries; it will kick off at the Zócalo in Mexico City's Centro Histórico and wend its way through downtown until it arrives on Paseo de la Reforma, ending at the Ángel de la Independencia. If you'll be in Mexico City, don't miss it!
Mexico City's iconic Ángel de la Independencia, nearly 43 meters high (that's 140 feet, for you who are metrically-challenged) is known all over the Distrito Federal simply as 'El Ángel'. Need a place to meet your friends to head for the Zona Rosa? "Nos vemos en el Ángel a las once..." ('see you at the Angel at eleven o'clock...'). For a good idea of the size of just the Ángel, look at the man standing near the right-hand corner of the railing--and consider that the platform is very, very high up on the column!
The alebrije, created originally by 20th century Mexico City papel maché (paper maché) artisan don Pedro Linares, has become part of Mexico's mythology. If the creatures appear to be the stuff of nightmares, they in fact are just that: in the mid-1930s, sick and hallucinating with a high fever, Linares dreamed that these fantastical creatures surrounded him and heard them calling out their hitherto nonsense-syllable name: alebrijes, alebrijes, alebrijes. When his health improved, he began making the figures in his media, paper maché and cardboard.
This towering two-headed, four-armed creature with wings is called Pescando Soles. I spoke to the man standing at the right of the photo; he is close to six feet tall. That should give you an idea of the size of this giant.
Even though Sr. Linares originated the genre of alebrijes based on his fevered dreams, and even though his family continues to produce them in Mexico City, the alebrije name has passed into common usage for any fantastical creature made in the Linares style or a style that is similar. In Mexico City and the surrounding area, most alebrijes are made of paper maché and cardboard; this work is called cartonería. However, in the state of Oaxaca (and most famously by the artisan workshop headed by Jacobo and María Ángeles in the town of San Martín Tilcajete), alebrijes are carved from copal wood and are made in the shape of animals, both realistic and mythical. Each genre is very different from the other.
The alebrijes exhibit started on a Sunday, which is always family day on Paseo de la Reforma. Every Sunday the divided wide boulevard is closed to all motorized traffic and is taken over by throngs of bicycles, tricycles, scooters, runners, walkers, children, and stroller-pushing parents. Vendors--of everything from food, toys, lucha libre masks (Mexican-style wrestling), bubble machines, pink and lavender cotton candy, and other non-essentials--line the sidewalks on both sides of Reforma.
This artist crafted a stack of monumentally-sized paper maché books between the feet of his giant alebrije. The title of the blue book in the middle of the stack is "Como Hacer Un Alebrije Monumental en Dos Semanas" ("How to Make a Monumental Alebrije in Two Weeks").
The end of the three-block exhibition of alebrijes: the fountain and glorieta (traffic circle) of Diana la Cazadora (Diana the Huntress). Click to enlarge the photo for a better view of her with her bow and arrow. In the background, the Hotel St. Regis.
After the weekend-long alebrijes exhibition along Paseo de la Reforma, the figures were trundled over to Mexico City's Centro Hístorico for a week in the Zócalo (central plaza), a fittingly monumental site for the 2011 crop of monumental alebrijes. We can hardly wait till the 2012 exhibit--come join us!
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