Wooden Oaxaca Alebrije Cat on Table
The first alebrijes, along with use of the term, originated with Pedro Linares. In the 1930s, Linares fell very ill and while he was in bed, unconscious, Linares dreamt of a strange place resembling a forest.There, he saw trees, animals, rocks, clouds that suddenly turned into something strange,some kind of animals, but, unknown animals. He saw a donkey with butterfly wings, a rooster with bull horns, a lion with an eagle head, and all of them were shouting one word, “Alebrijes”. Upon recovery, he began recreating the creatures he saw in cardboard and paper mache and called them Alebrijes. While Pedro Linares dreamed of the creatures, they did not surface in a vacuum. Similarities and parallels can be drawn between alebrijes and various supernatural creatures from Mexico's indigenous and European past. In pre-Hispanic art, the brightly colored images were often fantastic and macabre.Influences from Mexico City's Chinatown, especially in the dragons, and Gothic art such as gargoyles can be seen. Red cardboard demons called judas, which Linares made, are still made to be burned in Mexico during Holy Week in purification rituals. More recent predecessors in Mexican culture, artists Julio Ruelas and graphics artist/commentator José Guadalupe Posada, created fantastic and sometimes terrifying images. Alebrijes, especially the monsters, have gained a reputation for "scaring away bad spirits" and protecting the home. Some, like master craftsman Christian David Mendez, claim that there is a certain mysticism involved in the making and owning of alebrijes, with parts of certain animals representing human characteristics.