Understanding Dia de Los Muertos and La Catrina. A celebration of Culture and Life not death and skulls. Part 1

June 25, 2020

Day of the Dead Catrina Sculpture

I still recall my initial response when I saw my first Catrina sculpture that was beautifully hand-sculpted in terracotta clay. When we were invited to participate in a biannual artist's show in Guadalajara, Mexico 20 years ago we were exposed to many types of artwork that are typical of the artistry and talent inspired by the culture of Mexico but these beautiful skeletal figures caught me by surprise and initially shocked me.  I saw only a morbid figure that I did not understand and thought why? For those of you who are not yet familiar with this art genre, La Catrina is part of, and is representative of one of the most recognized yearly events that is celebrated throughout Mexico, Día de Los Muertos. This celebration is rich in rituals and expresses the unique and exceptional relationship that Mexicans have with death and with their ancestors. La Catrina has evolved from the meaning  ('a Dapper Skeleton', 'Elegant Skull') and takes its origins from a 1910–1913 zinc etching by the Mexican printmaker, cartoon illustrator and lithographer Jose Guadalupe Posada. She is offered as a satirical portrait of those Mexican natives who, Posada felt, were aspiring to adopt European aristocratic traditions in the pre-revolution era. La Catrina has become an icon of the Mexican Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead



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