As prescribed by Paulina Constancia
Welcome to a new week on DDoA! As we approach Halloween (Oct 31st), All Saints’ Day (Nov 1st) and All Souls’ Day (Nov 2nd), we look into Mexican traditions related to the Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead. We pay special attention to Calaveras (skulls) – history , artistic interpretations and other curiosities.
-From the “Latin word calvaria: which was a translation of the original Aramaic gulgulta ‘skull,’ came from calvus ‘bald,’ based on the notion that a human skull has lost all its hair (and skin and muscle) and is effectively bald. We recognize calvus as the source of the synonymous Spanish calvo.” via Steven Schwartzman/wordconnections
And now I bring you the most famous of all calaveras: LA CALAVERA CATRINA
Important facts about “La Calavera Catrina” you may be interested to know about:
Info via Wikipedia
Original name: “La Calavera Garbancera”
Details of first appearance: Etching created sometime between 1910 and 1913 by José Guadalupe Posada as a broadside
What was La Catrina intended to depict?
The original broadside (leaflet) describes a person ashamed of his Indian origins and dressed imitating the French style while wearing lots of makeup to make his skin look whiter.2 This description also ties to the original name garbancera, which became a nickname given to people of indigenous ancestry who imitated European style and denied their own cultural heritage.
Start of La Catrina’s Fame: its appearance in the first posthumous edition,entitled “Monografia: Las Obras de José Guadalupe Posada, Grabador Mexicano, which was published from the original plates in 1930; Calavera Catrina (Dapper Skeleton) can be found on plate 21 of Posada’s Popular Mexican Prints
Connection with Mexico & Day of the Dead:
“La Catrina has become the referential image of Death in Mexico, it is common to see her embodied as part of the celebrations of Day of the Dead throughout the country; she has become a motive for the creation of handcrafts made from clay or other materials, her representations may vary, as well as the hat.” – J.G. Posada
Its name & Popularity:
Posada’s work introduced the character but La Catrina owes its name and popularity to muralist Diego Rivera’s 1948 work – “Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central” (Dream of a Sunday afternoon along Central Alameda).
La Catrina in Rivera’s Mural:
Rivera portrays a culmination of 400 years of Mexico’s major figures, which include himself, Posada, and his wife Frida Kahlo. Rivera took inspiration from the original etching and gave Calavera a body and more of an identity in her elegant outfit as she is poised between himself and Posada. It appears that Rivera wanted to include the tradition of welcoming and comfort the Mexicans have with death. The identity of a lady of death, goes all the way back to the heritage of the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl .”
Symbolism of La Catrina (as explained by curator David de la Torre from the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes)
She has come to symbolize not only El Día de los Muertos and the Mexican willingness to laugh at death itself, but originally Catrina was an elegant or well-dressed woman, so it refers to rich people, de la Torre said. “Death brings this neutralizing force; everyone is equal in the end. Sometimes people have to be reminded.”
The culture of La Calavera Catrina
The culture of La Catrina has ties to political satire; a well-kept tradition as the original was inspired by the polarizing reign of dictator Porfirio Díaz – the modernisation and financial stability that he brought to Mexico is dwarfed by the magnitude of his government’s repression, corruption, extravagance and obsession with all things European. Wealth was in the hands of the privileged few, bringing discontent in the hearts of the suffering plenty -leading to the 1910 rebellion that toppled Diaz in 1911 and became the Mexican Revolution.
Here are some interpretations of La Calavera Catrina by Mexican artists:
1. Catrinas by Juan Torres
This exceptional and highly prestigious painter and sculptor, born in Michoacan, has always been fascinated by Death.
Death is a constant in his work, it appears everywhere in the shape of symbolisms or skeletons and skulls. In 1982 Juan discovered the wonders of clay and starts creating “Catrinas”.
Throughout the years the catrina has been reproduced by many artists, but never with such talent as Juan Torres, the catrina maker. His catrinas are unique, never two to be the same. Don Juan’s work has been imitated by many, always without success. Read more
2. Catrina Portrayals of Famous Females by Various Mexican Artists
La Catrina- FRIDA KAHLO
Information and Image from Galeria Colibri
Here we have Frida the Eternal, creating her mortal self. A thought provoking image…the Huichol people believe that as they create their artworks they are creating the world that is represented in the image…or should that be ‘re-presented’?
Aqui tenemos La Frida Eterna, creando si misma mortal. Un pensamiento curioso…la gente Huichol creen que mientras estan creando sus obras de artes, estan creando el mundo que esta representado en el imagen…ó deber ser ‘re-presentado’?
So do…as the Mexicans do- keep an image of La Catrina and remind yourself not to be vain, cruel or conceited -for you too one day shall die like everyone else.