Alebrijes are a world known handcraft from Mexico (the word “Alebrije” has no proper translation to English) and they have a long and peculiar history in Mexico, while the most known origin of them refers to a handcrafter who was sick in Mexico city who suffered from hallucinations, and having these strange mixed animal images come to his mind, others affirm they actually hail from Oaxaca, where they have been made for centuries before the man in Mexico City started to shape them up and thus created this now famous staple Mexican craft. In Oaxaca, they have made peace with the figurines be called “alebrijes”, and be regarded as a Mexico City handcraft, instead of being, as they should recognized as an original handcraft from Oaxaca state, and be called as the people of Oaxaca refer to them “Nahuales”.
Oaxaca, in south Mexico is undeniably, one of the most culturally rich and diverse states of the country, with over 30 dialects being spoken today, and host of the most important indigenous culture festival in Mexico, the “Guelaguetza”. It is also renowed for its delicate and complex cuisine, and most particularly, for the detailed and hard work handcrafts the indigenous people from Oaxaca have perfected for centuries.
Oaxaca’s handcrafters have been creating “alebrijes” for hundreds of years, giving them the characteristic intricate appearance they’re recognized for, this is an art in the towns of Oaxaca, and any aspiring artisan must go through multiple levels until finding the one they’re most capable at (shaping the wood, sanding it, and painting are some of the levels in the making of an alebrije) in order to excel at the crafting of an authentic alebrije.
Mexican handcrafts are renowed around the world for the variety of their materials and inspirations, letting visitors peek into the past, culture and dynamics of an specific Mexican community.
You can find authentic alebrijes from Oaxaca at our Gift shop, it’s an exceptional gift as there’re no two identical alebrijes in the world, therefore they’re more than just a handcraft, they are, indeed, a piece of art.
At Discover Mexico, we are currently working on something new and amazing, and it has to do with alebrijes; that’s all we can say for now… Stay tuned!