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Handicrafts of Oaxaca

THE ETHERREAL REALITY

Pedro Linares López was a recognized artist in the scene of Mexico City. He molded cardboard figures for celebrities such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, but at age 30 he fell unconscious in bed due to a terrible illness.

While dreaming, he found himself in a strange and fantastic forest, surrounded by animals. However, these animals did not correspond to those he knew, the dogs had butterfly wings and bull horns, the giraffes were blue and their look similar to that of a dragon; the insects fused with the mammals, and all repeated the same word: "Alebrijes !, alebrijes, alebrijes!". This event ended up marking the life of Pedro Linares forever.

Time later, the craftsman decided to project his visions to reality, and in papier-mâché he began to recreate these strange figures, calling them alebrijes, a word that now refers to anything tangled or difficult, in a fantastic context.

In the 1980s, Manuel Jiménez Ramírez, born in San Antonio de Arrazola, Oaxaca, traveled to the United States to attend a workshop where the technique developed by Pedro Linares was discussed. The Oaxacan was so impressed with his experience that he adapted the creation of these figures to the technique of carving in copal wood, and thus a tradition arose that gives renown to municipalities such as Arrazola, San Martín Tilcajete and La Unión Tejalapan ...

These crafts are the delight of people all over the world, unique in their manufacture and detailed, they are not produced in molds to preserve their authenticity and guarantee that each piece retains a character of its own identity.

Once the wood is molded, it is sanded for up to 24 hours and given a gasoline bath, to prevent moth-sticking; and it is left to rest for up to six months, thus guaranteeing a perfect drying. When it is ready then it starts with the decoration, which, depending on the size and complexity of the design, can take up to eight months to complete.

With bright colors are marked stars, lines, scales, snails, flowers, dots, and other elements that give personality to the craft, in addition to representing positive concepts in the Zapotec culture, such as friendship.

Currently, visitors can visit workshops and museums located in the municipalities of San Antonio de Arrazola and San Martín Tilcajete, where the production of alebrijes is the main economic activity; which speaks of the decades of experience that artisans have in the curious process of making their dreams come true.

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