It is an undeniable fact that the celebration of the Day of the Dead is the result of the syncretism between the various indigenous and European cultures that came to Mexico from 1519. Before the conquest the Indians worshiped gods and deities who ruled the world of dead, however, the celebration of any act related to death had very little to do with how we express it today. For example, the dates on which the deceased are remembered (the first and second of November), as well as the Spanish name itself, “Day of all the saints and the faithful departed”, were imposed by the Spanish conquistadors. That is why in Poland and many European countries where the Catholic religion is relevant, celebrations are held for the deceased on these same days.
In Mexico the day of the dead is celebrated in different ways (Catholic masses, processions, repairs and cleaning in the cemeteries, the assembly of colorful offerings, etc.), in which the mixture of indigenous and European characteristics is explicitly shown; but among all these expressions, stands out one which has taken such strength for its expressive richness, its high aesthetic value, for the enormous cultural burden that it brings as the main support and for the social context that is lived all over the world in our days. I refer to the figure of the “Calavera Catrina”.
La Calavera Catrina, has its origin in Mexico at the beginning of the 20th century and was created by the artist and journalist José Guadalupe Posada who, in an engraving of social and political criticism, created what was originally called “La Calavera Garbancera”, which was a skeleton naked female with a broad hat in the style of the ladies of the French aristocracy. With this character Posada made fun of Mexican women who denied their origins for wanting to look like European aristocrats. Hence the name of garbancera, which were the women who sold chickpeas when they previously traded corn. But it was not until 1947 when the great muralist Diego Rivera painted her full-length and with French-style clothes, with her typical wide feathered hat and next to her original creator, José Guadalupe Posada in her famous mural “An afternoon’s dream of Sunday at the Alameda Central “. That was when it was called “La Calavera Catrina”. It is worth remembering that catrín was called at that time who was very elegantly dressed.
THE WORLD PHENOMENON
It was in the decade of the eighties of the last century, when the figure of the skull catrina began to take force and to be present in various media. It began by surrounding the celebration of the Day of the Dead in cultural spaces where theatrical acts were represented, on television and in popular literature, as it became common to compose verses with sarcastic content in which the protagonist is always death, calaca and calavera.
The figure of the catrina skull has taken so much force since then that it has become a true national phenomenon in Mexico. In these dates infinity of women and men of all the ages of disguise of skull. This phenomenon has grown so much that this image is seen everywhere, on television in newspapers, in magazines and of course on social networks. Crowd parades have been created in various cities throughout Mexico, among which stands out the dimensions of Mexico City in which the participants dress up as catrina skulls and skulls that allude to any other type of character.
In the United States of America, Canada and South America the calavera catrina is becoming more and more present; in Europe, mainly in Spain, France, Portugal and Italy the same is happening, and in countries like Germany and Poland, the faces of beautiful girls painted in white with shadows and multicolored lights evoking this peculiar and beautiful character of origin Mexican.
Political and economic phenomenon? Probably it does involve part of this, but from my point of view it is worthwhile to enjoy it because of its great essential content. Currently there is another phenomenon that takes place practically all over the world on these same dates. Here the “Zombies” are the protagonists. I do not know its origins and as much as I try, I can not identify its values or its riches and although I do not deny that it is a powerful movement, I declare myself totally in favor of the “Catrina Skull” since this image, fully expresses the sense of celebration and of the taste for bright and lively color, the passion for aesthetics, for pain, for life and for love. – So, as we Mexicans are.