La Catrina: the character not to be missed

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


Calavera de la Catrina from the portfolio 36 Grabados: José Guadalupe Posada (c. 1910, printed 1943) by José Guadalupe PosadaThe Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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.

El jarabe de ultratumba from the portfolio 36 Grabados: José Guadalupe Posada (c. 1910, printed 1943) by José Guadalupe PosadaThe Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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

The messenger (2011/2011) by José Raúl Cruz JuárezMUMEDI

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."

Calcium through and through (2007/2007) by Diseño con Sombrero EstudioMUMEDI

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.

Death among dualities (2007/2007) by Hector Bayona AcostaMUMEDI

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.

Kisses for Mama (2011/2011) by Felipe Mendiola VelázquesMUMEDI

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.

Easy Death (2007/2007) by Iran Nasheli Gonzáles TostadoMUMEDI

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

To Death with a Smile, Edgar Francisco Clement Ibarra, 2015/2015, From the collection of: MUMEDI
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To Death with a Smile (2007/2007) by Andrés Antonio Morales GuerreroMUMEDI

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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