Tuesday, September 1, 2009

La Catrina: Icon of The Day of the Dead

The answer to last week's poll, "Who Is She?" is: La Catrina! Take another look. Haven't you seen her before?

La Calavera de La Catrina (The Skull of La Catrina), with her wide-brimmed, plumed hat is one of the most recognized visual representations of El Dia De Los Muertos or The Day of The Dead, one of the many festivals celebrated throughout Mexico.

La Catrina, a female dandy, was one of many calaveras created by illustrator, engraver and political cartoonist, Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913). While the image of La Catrina did not become the icon of The Day of the Dead until after Posada's death, this and other calaveras appeared in many newspapers and broadsides during the late 19th century. Known as the "the 'penny press', the prensa de un centavo, became, by the middle of the nineteenth century, one of the most important vehicles for social and political satire (Carmichal and Sayer, 1991:58).

The political caricature of La Catrina was meant to lampoon the life of the upper classes during the era of political corruption and social inequality under the regime of Porfirio Diaz (1876-1880 and 1884-1911). The message is this: No matter how rich you are, you cannot escape death.

Or, in Posada's words:

"La muerte es democrática, ya que a fin de cuentas, güera, morena,
rica o pobre, toda la gente acaba siendo calavera".


A rough translation: "Death is democratic. When you come right down to it, fair or dark, rich or poor, everyone becomes a calavera (skull)."

Carmichael, Elizabeth and Sayer Chloe (1991) The Skeleton At the Feast: The Day of the Dead in Mexico. University of Texas Press: Austin, TX

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

look this tribute to the Catrina for her 100 years