The Day of the Dead of Mexico is a unique celebration in the world. This is a holiday that mixes its Aztec ancestor with Christian traditions of Spanish colonial influence and that today has become a ritual full of color and symbolism that crosses borders and even reaches fashion and other popular festivals. The Catrinas, the quintessential symbol of this celebration, have become the object of worship in many parts of the world and serve as a costume to celebrate this day in many countries, including Spain. It is a painted face that resembles a skull and is decorated with brightly colored flowers.
Unlike other places (where they are associated with fear) the skulls have a positive meaning in Mexico during the Day of the Dead, since in the Mayan culture they were a kind of rebirth. In fact, these symbols are sold today as sweets and also filled with chocolate. The sugar skulls have their roots in the tzompantli, an altar used by the Mesoamerican peoples. Above him, a row of perforated skulls of those who had been sacrificed in honor of the gods was placed. After the arrival of the Spaniards and with the incorporation of All Saints Day in the calendar, a technique was introduced to prepare them as sweets, the alfeñique, a kind of caramel or jam based on cane sugar that forms a moldable paste. The states that welcomed this gastronomic form were Guanajuato, Morelos and the State of Mexico. In other places such as Aguascalientes, one of the most important parties of these days takes place: the Calaveras Festival, which is celebrated this year from October 28 to November 6. In addition to parades, concerts, shows and numerous other activities planned in the city, you can visit the National Museum of Death, which stores a collection of more than 2,000 exhibits related to the subject.
The flowers also have a symbolic importance. Many designs of the skulls appear surrounded by flowers, especially the cempasuchil, a kind of yellow marigold that is known as the flower of the dead. In the Aztec belief, the marigold had spiritual properties because it was thought to help guide the souls of the dead. In places like Tuxtepec, Oaxaca, flowers have a great presence on their famous altars with sawdust rugs. With pinpoint accuracy, they begin to be made from days before so that the nights of November 1 and 2 are ready. In Quintana Roo, the Day of the Dead is celebrated by taking away the prominence of the sun and the beach. There the children are responsible for decorating the altars with the flowers.
The result: The Catrinas
With the combination of skulls and flowers this character is so characteristic that today is a symbol in many festivities outside of Mexico: the catrina. In the past, the word “catrín” defined an elegant and well dressed male, usually from the aristocracy, which was accompanied by a woman with the same characteristics. La Catrina is a female figure with more than 100 years of history created by the Mexican cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada.
In case you missed it, we share the International Day of the Dead Parade 2019 COMPLETE.
Originally it was called “La Calavera Garbancera” and it was a mockery of the natives who had enriched themselves and belittled their origins and customs. Subsequently, the muralist Diego Rivera baptized her as “La Catrina” and gave this art wide dissemination. The mural “Dream of a Sunday afternoon in the Alameda Central” is another recognized work, produced this time by Rivera in 1947, where he represents himself with the catrina, along with Frida Kahlo and José Guadalupe. He is currently at the Diego Rivera Mural Museum in Mexico City.