Mexican Alebrije Owl Armadillo Oaxacan Wood Carving

What is an alebrije? Alebrije History as a recent Mexican folk art tradition.


What is an Alebrije?

Alebrijes are One of the most popular and relatively recent manifestations of Mexican Folk artAlebrijes are surreal creatures from an oneiric world that were "brought to life" by Pedro Linares Lopez (906-1992), a paper Maché artist from Mexico City, renowned for making big figures for easter’s eve called Judas. Mr Linares job as cartonero or paper mache artist was so good that Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo used to collect his creations, even before he made the first alebrijes. 

History, origin and meaning of Alebrijes

In 1936, Pedro Linares fell sick and had severe hallucinations where he saw fantastic figures like a donkey with wings, a frog with a rooster’s head and so many other creatures that repeatedly said: Alebrije, alebrije, alebrije! But, what does the word Alebrije mean? Fortunately, Mr Linares recovered from his illness before the definition of the word alebrije was revealed to him. Hence, there is not a precise meaning nor an etymology for the word alebrije. Despite the lack of linguistic explanation to the word alebrije, Mr. Linares gave significance to his visions by representing the creatures he saw using his paper maché skills. When the first customer saw them and asked: “what is that figure?”, Mr. Linares simply said: It is an Alebrije.



Alebrije's evolution: Coco & Oaxacan wood carvings

Since the midst of the 30’s decade when Mr. Linares got sick and created the first sculptures, alebrijes have evolved;  they are not only made of Paper Maché, but there are also wood carvings form Oaxaca called alebrijes. Coco, the movie has a modern representation with 3D computer animated alebrijes based on a thorough research of Mexican traditions. Now Dante and Pepita are cherished alebrije characters.  One thing is for sure: after the first alebrije was crafted, a whole new Mexican folk art tradition was born. A tradition that emerged not only out of the incredible imagination of Mr. Pedro Linares López, but also from the enormous cultural baggage that made André Breton say that Mexico is the most surrealist country in the world.

Black & White Dog Alebrije Oaxacan Wood Carving

Check out our gallery of alebrijes & Oaxacan wood carvings

for sale Here!


  • Mariana Arcoz: March 24, 2024

    Wow I never knew the meaning of this work of art! This is so eye-opening thanks for spreading this information!

  • Erika Mendoza: September 15, 2021

    Love your website

  • Gerald Wasser: February 14, 2021

    After reading this I appreciate my collection of alebrijes even more!

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Meet the Author

Porfirio Sosa Torres, a Poet and Photographer, holds a college degree in business. He has also pursued extensive studies in communication and photography. His godfather, Humberto Arellano Sáenz, founded Carapan Gallery in 1950. From a tender age of 6, Porfirio has been deeply immersed in Mexican Folk Art, benefitting from the wisdom of his father and embarking on journeys across Mexico to seek out the most exquisite examples of folk art for display at Carapan Gallery. His passion lies in the pursuit and appreciation of beauty in art, fueling his desire to curate the most exquisite folk art pieces for the gallery.

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