By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
For the 12th straight year, a pageant of hundreds of oversized winged dragons, gargantuan multihued insects and superhuman-sized Catrina walking-dead dolls took to the streets in Mexico City on Saturday, Oct. 21, as the now-iconic Monumental Alebrijes Parade got underway.
The parade, which this year was heralded in by a spooky-toned blues concert courtesy of Bandula and Calacas Jazz Band, has become a pre-Day of the Dead Mexico City tradition, and entails a colorful onslaught of colossal monsters, outrageous beasts and ambivalent creatures.
The king-size alebrijes, are modern-day interpretations of brightly colored paper maché figures of fantastical creatures first conceived by a Mixe Indian from Oaxaca in the 1930s after a horrible nightmare.
The parade is organized each year by the Museo de Arte Popular (MAP) in conjunction with the Mexico City Secretariat of Culture and Tourism as part of an ongoing program to encourage interest and appreciation of Mexican handicraft art.
The first parade, held in 2006, was composed of just 30 giant alebrijes; this year there were more than 200 of the handmade monsters, which were marched by their creators down the main streets of the capital, starting at the Zócalo and proceeding down Cinco de Mayo and Avenida Juarez to Reforma and the Angel de Independencia monument.
At the end of the three-hour parade, all of the monster alebrijes were distributed along the sidewalks of Reforma, where they will remain on public display through Sunday, Nov. 4.
The participating alebrijes will later be judged by a jury of art specialists from the MAP on their creativity and originality, with the top three winners receiving a cash prize.
The entries can be made from paper maché, wood or any other materials, but must be manually operated with no electrical or mechanical moving parts.
Alebrijes, which can come in any shape and size, are credited to being the creation of Pedro Linares, a poor artisan in the remote Oaxacan village of San Martín Tilcajete, after recovering from a bout with severe dysentery.
He later crafted the bizarre creatures to show his family what he had dreamt during his illness.
Today, the picturesque monsters are produced throughout Oaxaca and in surrounding states.