2016

La Catrina: the character not to be missed

MUMEDI

Various artists around the world have been inspired by José Guadalupe Posada's illustration to recreate the Day of the Dead tradition.

La Catrina by José Guadalupe Posada
Originally called La Calavera Garbancera ("the elegant skeleton"), the image was created by the Mexican engraver, illustrator and caricaturist José Guadalupe Posada, born in Aguascalientes.

The character, created by Posada in 1913, has traveled around the world and represents the way that we, as Mexicans, understand and represent death.

La Catrina at MUMEDI (Mexican Museum of Design)
Among the exhibits of "To Death with a Smile", La Catrina has been an inspiration for many involved, helping us get to know the different faces of "La Calavera Garbancera" ("the elegant skeleton").

The term "garbancero" was used, in the early twentieth century in Mexico, to refer to indigenous people who pretended to be European and disowned their roots.

Posada's La Catrina was just a face with a hat, symbolizing someone or something make-believe. It was Diego Rivera who gave the skull a body, in the mural "Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park."

The skull is dressed in a European style, with a dress, stole and a large hat, representing Posada's critique of the society of the time.

However, the image of La Catrina also has pre-Hispanic influences, evoking characters such as Mictlantecuhtli, the god of death.

The image of La Catrina is also associated with the sugar skulls, which are an offering to the dead.

La Catrina is a symbol of syncretism between pre-Hispanic and colonial times; the Mexican and the European. It is also a figure that has transcended borders.

Some other designers have evoked the female figure of La Catrina with elements not seen in the image itself, as in this offering.

With her eternal smile, la Catrina would continue to be a fundamental character in the iconography surrounding the Day of the Dead.

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