Marciano versus the Alebrije
Once upon a woodcarving in the village of San Martin a devil and a porcupine decided to have a child and the result was the Marciano. These eye catching creatures have many appendages like wings, fins, ears, horns, and tails. During their heyday of 1980’s and 1990’s a host of different artists did their own variations, riffing and evolving off of one another. Impressive pieces from the Mendez family and Angeles family are some of Port Wahakaa’s earliest examples from the dawn of digital cameras. The Mendez Marcianos were over a foot tall and the Angeles aliens were half that but had the cutest expressive eyes.
At some point in time the Sosa family (Carmelo and Luis) once known for tyrannical dragons created the iconic standard still seen today. While they are now assumed to be Alebrijes they are rooted to the Marciano space creature ‘Martian’. Ironically, If you were to enter the term ‘alebrije’ into a search engine in the 1990’s you would see Spanish websites talking about the movie Star Wars and the images would be of the Mos Eisley cantina.
Marciano’s have been said to ward off evil spirits or negate any unwanted bad luck much like the Tiki’s of Hawaii. Whether it was invented or improvised if you asked the artist ‘are these good luck’ they would nod and say ‘si pero por supuesto’ yes but of course. Always capturing the attention over other competing tourist folk art with their eye-popping colors and flaring forms. This is most evident in crowded markets where the casual passerby sees these bright aliens and is drawn in for a potential sale. We are describing our own first discovery of them south of the zocalo in the summer of 1992 in Oaxaca city. Even in regional markets the tables with Marcianos would upstage black or green pottery and the woven rugs much to the consternation of other vendors.
Over in the village of San Pedro Cajonos they are not familiar with the term ‘Marciano’ but instead Alebrije. They have fashioned their creations after the famous Pedro Linares familiy of paper mache monsters from the 1960’s as seen in the book Folk Treasures of Mexico by Nelson Rockefeller. In that book they spell it ‘Alebriges’ which has long since been a source of confusion. To add to the confusion all Oaxacan Wood Carvings are often generalized as Alebrijes but that is whole separate topic of discussion. Each of the Blas brothers have their own ‘alien’ aka Alebrije variant. Some are very friendly and others nightmarish. Rogelio, Constantino, and Medardo all have their own unique offerings that have changed over the years. Their children have tried to adhere to their styles but still slightly change and evolve over time. If you see some in our gallery know that they were difficult to obtain and the quality sublime.