The Mexican Catrina – an evolving tradition

Mexico’s Grande Dame of Death promenade at Reforma Avenue
English 19/10/2017 16:00 EL UNIVERSAL in English/Alejandra Mendoza Mexico City Actualizada 11:45
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Beyond borders and oceans, this dapper lady has become an icon of the Mexican festivity of the Day of the Dead

Makeup artists use their talent to get people into the spirit for Day of the Dead

EL UNIVERSAL in English/Miranda Perea

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Mexico’s Grande Dame of Death promenade at Reforma Avenue

There is a wide variety of makeup designs to choose from

EL UNIVERSAL in English/Miranda Perea

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Mexico’s Grande Dame of Death promenade at Reforma Avenue

People of all ages and nationalities join in the celebration and makeup

EL UNIVERSAL in English/Miranda Perea

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Mexico’s Grande Dame of Death promenade at Reforma Avenue

The parade is set to take place from the Angel of the Independence Monument to Mexico City's main square, Zócalo

EL UNIVERSAL in English/Miranda Perea

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Mexico’s Grande Dame of Death promenade at Reforma Avenue

This year, Mexico City's government has organized four parades and several cultural activities to celebrate Day of the Dead

EL UNIVERSAL in English/Miranda Perea

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Mexico’s Grande Dame of Death promenade at Reforma Avenue

Day of the Dead is a Mexican tradition known all over the world

EL UNIVERSAL in English/Miranda Perea

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Mexico’s Grande Dame of Death promenade at Reforma Avenue

You can choose a traditional makeup in the fashion of sugar skulls

EL UNIVERSAL in English/Miranda Perea

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Mexico’s Grande Dame of Death promenade at Reforma Avenue

Day of the Death is a time to remember the loved ones who have passed away

EL UNIVERSAL in English/Miranda Perea

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Mexico’s Grande Dame of Death promenade at Reforma Avenue

The colors, flowers, and joy of the celebration have attracted tourists from all over the world

EL UNIVERSAL in English/Miranda Perea

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Mexico’s Grande Dame of Death promenade at Reforma Avenue

The parade is also a good time to express yourself and have fun

EL UNIVERSAL in English/Miranda Perea

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Mexico’s Grande Dame of Death promenade at Reforma Avenue

Day of the Dead is an international referent of Mexican culture

EL UNIVERSAL in English/Miranda Perea

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Mexico’s Grande Dame of Death promenade at Reforma Avenue

Is a time to come together and celebrate and enjoy life

EL UNIVERSAL in English/Miranda Perea

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Mexico’s Grande Dame of Death promenade at Reforma Avenue

All nationalities and cultures are welcome to join Day of the celebrations

EL UNIVERSAL in English/Miranda Perea

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Mexico’s Grande Dame of Death promenade at Reforma Avenue

Day of the Dead was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO

EL UNIVERSAL in English/Miranda Perea

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Mexico’s Grande Dame of Death promenade at Reforma Avenue

Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico has become one of the most iconic festivities of this country and has even managed to cross borders and oceans—most prominently—in the figure of the elegant skeleton lady of La Catrina. Yet where does she come from?

The Calavera Catrina was born in 1912 from the imagination of Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada, but that wasn't her name back then. Posada published the first illustration of this Great Dame of Death under the name of La Calavera Garbancera as a social criticism of the indigenous Mexican women who rejected their roots and tried to pass as European.

The engraver was famous for his satirical rhymes, illustrated with skulls and skeletons, which he used to describe the political and religious matters of Mexico, as well as aspects of daily life. Then how did she become La Catrina?

It was Mexican painter Diego Rivera who took the work of Posada and gave it a body. Literally. In his mural "Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central" (1947) (“Dream of a Sunday Afternoon along Central Alameda”), Rivera painted the full-bodied skeleton lady as the central piece of his mural, and called her La Catrina, the feminine version of the Catrin, a bon vivant dandy in Mexican culture.

In his mural, Diego Rivera featured the Catrina at the center, with a young version of himself on the left, and her creator, José Guadalupe Posada on the right.

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It is due to the merger of Mexico's Prehispanic ideologies, the Mexican people historical focus on death—that is, their willingness to both laugh at it and embrace it with a loving familiarity—and the classism prevalent in the Mexican society, that the Catrina became the embodiment not only of death as a neutralizing force between the rich and the poor, but also, a powerful symbol of what the Day of the Death in Mexico is all about. And it is becoming famous worldwide.

Maybe it's a mixture of the colors, the satire, the meaning, and the evolving attitude towards death what have fixed this character as an icon, but regardless of the cause, it seems La Catrina is here to stay.
 

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