Day of the Dead. Mexico. Alebrijes.

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The day  of the dead, November 2nd is a probably the second greatest celebration in Mexico after or at par with December 12, the Virgin of Guadalupe. For some years now, the city of Mexico has financed a display of Alebrijes coinciding with the Day of the Dead. I am not too keen on local governments spending taxpayers’ money on “culture” when the basics are not met: streets are full of holes, public lighting is largely deficient, let us not mention security… But there it is, every year (panem et circenses) There is a display of Alebrijes on Reforma, the largest avenue in Mexico city.

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Alebrijes are local “demons” of sort. Invented in 1936 by a Mexican artist called Pedro Linares López. Built in Papier-mâché, they normally feature fantastic animals or combination of animals. The above batman-like Alebrije is called “Coatzín”. After exhaustive, 5 second research, it is supposed to mean “noble serpent” in Nahuátl.

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Selfie…(Look closely)

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There are two kinds of Alebrijes in Mexico: the originals, so to speak, in papier-mâché, are from Mexico city. The other kind is from Oaxaca, in the southwest of Mexico, carved out of tender wood and features fantasy animals not in a grotesque or scary way, but more elegant, stylized. (Need to remember doing a post on those. Have a few at home)

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Shot those last Saturday, October 31st. After an entire week of sun, of course, clouds started to pack above as we parked the car behind Reforma. 😦 A photographer’s nightmare. All I needed was a wee bitta sun to explode the colours. No way José.

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What’s for lunch?

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Pussy cat…

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Plan 9 from outer space

I couldn’t resist naming this one after the fabulous movie, after I realized that one of my E-friends is a fan. The creature from the black lagoon was not on display, in case any enlightened amateur should ask.

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The angel of Independence on Reforma Avenue. Just right around the corner. Just to prove I kid thee not not about the lousy light. 😦

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Death is always present.

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Chaan Báalam.

Chan or Kan Balaam was a Maya lord around 700. AD. Balaam or Balam means Jaguar in Maya. Chilam Balam is a series of sacred Maya books. The source of many a treasure quest and adventure stories. (See Corto Maltese by Hugo Pratt)

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If, dear reader, you are seeing a pink elephant, please cut down on the Tequila now. And I mean NOW. The above is just a sheep.

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The one and only brief second of sun in the entire walk. As you can see the little kids just love the monsters.

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Man walking to his doom.

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Tunkuluchú

Tunkuluchú, in Maya, or tecolote in Mexican (from Nahuátl: tecolotl) is the owl. Of bad omen, he announces Death.

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Tunkuluchu, the owl. Detail.

Text and pix (c) BMO and Equinoxio. The author wishes to apologize for the lack of decent light. Colours would have been muuuch better. Such are the dangers of reporting in war zones. No time to adjust your diaphragm on your I-Phone. 🙂

And also my heartfelt compliments to all the artists who displayed their nightmares with amazing talent. Felicidades a todos los artistas que crearon estos alebrijes. 🙂

Y’all be good naw. Bonne semaine. Bonita semana. À la prochaine.

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52 thoughts on “Day of the Dead. Mexico. Alebrijes.

  1. On one hand I applaud the effort of the artists.
    On the other hand I can’t help but thinking this should be about our dearly departed ones, not about legendary or invented monsters.
    El día de los muertos – is is about people we loved that departed or just about fantasy…? A wild question…

      • It is. And having said that I thought about you this week-end and the fire in the disco in Bucarest. Such a shame. Young lives lost in a flicker. Irreplaceable.

      • Oh yes, that was a tragedy. There were many opinions, but beyond all of them one fact is undeniable: innocent young people died.

        Personally I’m the ‘conspiracy theory-inclined guy’ and such events, when thought about in depth and with a bit of technical background, reveal the possibility that they may be a gruesome manipulation for the masses to accept some future legislation that would otherwise be unacceptable. Hard to prove such allegations, unfortunately.

        I do have a girlfriend living in Bucharest and knowing she’s a rocker and usually attends at such concerts I was very concerned; texted her yesterday and found out she was alright. But all the others… didn’t know them personally but still they were human beings that should’ve gotten a chance to taste the life before going beyond, to the realm of the shadows. 😦

        Thank you so much for caring, Brian, you’re a very kind person.

      • Don’t mention it Dragos. Sadly nothinh will bring them back. And like you said, there are so many things they will not experience. Very sad indeed.

    • Actually it is a “convergence”. On the day of the dead, people build an altar in their homes, with orange flowers, sugar skulls labelled after all the family and friends. They go to the graveyard, clean the tombs, decorate them. Bring presents, food, sweets, liquor for the dead. They stay a good bit of the night and when a whif of air signals the passing of the dead, means they have sampled the food, time to eat and drink.
      The alebrijes are an independent creation, just the Mayor has decided to do the display at the time of the Day of the dead. Politicians.

      • Ah well, when you put it that way it sounds acceptable. 🙂 Politics should be banned by law worldwide anyway 😀

        And don’t worry about the photos, they’re all great and I thank you for al your efforts.

  2. There are so many countries that celebrate/designate a “day of the dead”, we don’t do that here, but it is a lovey tribute!

    • Thank you my friend. In the US, England Halloween is in place. In France, people go to the cemetery on “Toussaint”, all saints’ day, Nov.1st. Why? Don’t know.

      • Absolutely. My grandfather (WWI veteran?) will live on until my brother and I do. ‘coz we’re the last ones to have known him. Very nice “Coeur de feu”. I need a name. Can’t call you “coeur de feu” all the time. Wie heist du?
        Brian

      • my name is Holly, though I like courer de feu, smiling! Yes, we are coming to the last of the WWII veterans now…may they live in memory forever. Thank you Brian.

  3. Bonne semaine. Bonne photos! Bonne lighting. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You should have known better than to think the dead would have made this a good day for photos! Nonetheless I somehow managed to enjoy them immensely! Totally awesome as we valley girls like to say.

  4. What amazing photos and although I’ve never been to Mexico, I have friends who celebrate this every year rememberance and honor is so important as they are the Angels that guide me, loved ones and those I’ve never met😊 Great piece my friend. Namaste, K

    • Thank you Kim. Those comments go right to my heart. As you well know, when one prepares a post one never knows how it will be received. So I’m glad this small set of pix took you on an instant trip to Mexico. Quicker and cheaper than buying the plane ticket. 🙂

      • Yeah, Hawaii would be more expensive but once you see a beach, well you know…..now art on the other hand….Puerto Rico has in Ponce, hand painted lions done by all different artists. Quite he sigh but not anywhere near the intense color and creativity of your images. Thank you for my trip, I had fun.. And let’s do it again sometime soon, okay? 😃 peace and blessings, K

      • No questioning Hawai. (I imagine, haven’t been there)
        I checked the Ponce lions. Interesting. Though a different tradition.
        Let me plan your next trip.
        🙂
        Take care. B.

    • Thank you Robin. Despite my bitching about the light?
      🙂
      Fact is we’d had almost a week of continuous sun, and right when we park the car one block away, the “bloody” sun hides away behind the clouds.
      So frustrating. ‘coz I know that the colours would’ve come out muuuuch brighter and livelier with a bitta sun.
      😦
      Anyway. I think it still worked out ok to give you folks an idea of what Alebrijes look like.
      🙂
      Have a lovely week.

  5. Shame about the light Brian, but magical demons all the same. I’ve always wanted to be in Mexico for the Day of the Dead, but no luck so far. I imagine it’s pretty crazy, and of course I was thinking about it the other day after going to the cinema to watch the Bond movie – three hours I’ll never get back – which has a dramatic start set in Mexico City during Day of the Dead.
    Hope all’s well and that the weather has perked up a bit?
    Paul

    • As a good frog, I bitch all the time. That includes the weather. We shouldn’t have clouds or rain or cold, but we do. It is bitching thinking of the weather right now in France, the UK, or Holland. (Though your past post did have a lot of light. Global warming?)
      🙂

  6. Really informative article about the alebrijes; I had never heard of them before. And I think you still managed to capture some great shots, despite the lighting 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you Allison. Funny thing about the light, many seem to have picked up. It was no big deal really (I was really just bitching)
      just a pang of frustration when the beautiful sun went into hiding behind the clouds, I thought: the colours will not be as nice…
      But they were, eventually. 🙂

  7. Great post!! I enjoyed each of these fantastic demons! I’m glad to see a municipality supporting public art like this, even if there are other more “practical” ways to channel monies to infrastructure. Installations like this encourage creativity in the artists, it excites the imagination and eyes of those who see it, and further, perhaps can encourage conversation among strangers observing the pieces together. (Rachael)

    • Hi Rachael. Glad you enjoyed it. Also agree (in view of our pitiful streets and infrastructure) that money could be chaneled elsewhere, but it wouldn’t make much of a difference in terms of number of lamposts, while it does make a difference for the artists. And the many, many visitors. (And that includes you)
      Be good
      Brian

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