Mexico’s Cardboard Monsters | God's World News
Mexico’s Cardboard Monsters
Take Apart SMART!
Posted: January 01, 2024
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    A team carts a giant alebrije through Mexico City, Mexico, in 2022. Alebrijes are fantastical creatures made from paper mâché and painted in bright colors. (AP/Eduardo Verdugo)
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    Mexican artist Israel Mondragón made this alebrije called Señor Travieso. (AP/Fernando Llano)
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    Israel Mondragón paints an alebrije at his studio in Mexico City on October 19, 2023. (AP/Fernando Llano)
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    Alebrijes parade through Mexico City in 2022. (AP/Eduardo Verdugo)
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    The Museum of Popular Art in Mexico City organizes an annual alebrije contest and parade. (AP/Eduardo Verdugo)
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    An alebrije titled Guardian #2, a mix of jaguar and eagle, greets visitors to Rockefeller Center in New York City in 2021. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Tishman Speyer)
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They’re strange. They’re fabulous. And they’re taking over the streets of Mexico City, Mexico. Look at all the alebrijes (ah-lay-BREE-hays)!

Israel Mondragón works as an artist in Mexico. He paints his creation—a giant figure made from cardboard. It takes most of a day to finish the fantastical creature. The finished product . . .

  • stands over six feet tall
  • has the head of an iguana and the body of a lizard
  • holds a cake with his left hand
  • walks three dogs with his right.

His name? “Señor Travieso.” That’s Spanish for “Mr. Mischievous.”

The artwork is just one of 200 other “alebrijes” that will decorate the main streets of Mexico City.

“Alebrijes” are Mexican folk art figures made of paper mâché or cardboard. Wire underneath holds them up. People who make them are called “cartoneros” or “alebrijeros.”

People say the unusual art form started with Pedro Linares López, a cardboard maker from Mexico City. He began to make alebrijes around 1936. The story goes like this: Mr. López got very sick, so sick that he saw strange visions. (Maybe he had a fever!) The animals in his visions were all mixed up. A donkey had wings. A rooster had the body of a frog. When he got better, Mr. López made artwork inspired by his dream. And it makes sense that his work became known as “alebrijes.” In Spanish, that is a nonsense word.

Famous Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera admired Mr. López’s work. They helped make him famous. His children and grandchildren carried on the tradition.

Alebrijes may have features of different animals mixed together, like mythical creatures. They are likely to be painted in bold patterns and bright colors. Silly, peaceful, or frightening, their features are usually exaggerated.

Mr. Mondragón came up with his design a year ago to promote caring for stray animals. He puts the last brushstrokes on the tail of “Señor Travieso.” He can’t hide how pleased he feels to put his art on display for people to see.

Why? As God’s image-bearers, we are gifted to create with the imaginations that He designed into us.