People: Pedro Linares & His Alebrijes

In 1936, a young Mexico City street artist named Pedro Linares fell into a deep fever. While he slept, he dreamt, and his dreams were anything but normal. He found himself in a fantastically colored forest full of unbelievable animals: lions with wings, stag-headed bears, dogs with lizard tails, all resplendent with colors rarely found in nature, let alone on a single animal. To add to the strangeness, every animal was screaming a nonsense word over and over again: “ALEBRIJES! ALEBRIJES!”

When Linares awoke from these fever dreams, the “cartoneria”, or artist working with papier-mache, got to work. He began crafting the fanciful creatures that he’d seen in his dreams and appropriately named them “Alebrijes.” Originally “ugly and terrifying”, Linares’s work evolved to become more and more vibrant to meet the demands of his buyers (including Diego Rivera, whose collection of Alebrijes can be seen in the Anahuacalli Museum in Mexico City).

When he died in 1992 at the age of 85, Linares was known as one of the best artisans in Mexico, providing inspiration for the countless other alebrijes makers and artists who carry on the spirit of his work.