March of the Behemoths: Monsters on Parade
By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
A colorful 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. 22, as the now-iconic Monumental Alebrijes Parade got underway at the capital’s Zócalo central plaza shortly after 10 a.m.
The parade, which was heralded in a concert of spooky-toned music performed by the Band of the General Headquarters of the High Command of the Mexican Naval Secretariat, has become a pre-Day of the Dead Mexico City tradition, and entails a colorful onslaught of colossal monsters, outrageous beasts and ambivalent creatures.
Now in its 14th edition, the Monumental Alebrijes Parade and Contest was organized by the Museum of Popular Art (MAP), in collaboration with the authorities of Mexico City, was attended by more than 400,000 spectators as the behemoths snaked their way down the avenues of 5 de Mayo, Juárez and Paseo de la Reforma until reaching the roundabout of the Independence Monument.
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 160 of the fantastic handmade monsters that marched along the three-kilometer promenade.
The participating alebrijes will be judged by a jury of art specialists from the MAP on their creativity and originality on Saturday, Oct. 29, 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.