La Catrina, also known as La Calavera Garbancera, was originally created by Jose Guadalupe Posada and later named, painted and dressed by Mexican painter and illustrator Diego Rivera on one of his murals. Over time, the Calavera Catrina (translated literally-corpse skull) has become one of the symbols of Mexican national identity, the essence of which is a cross between pre-Columbian, Spanish and revolutionary traditions. It also serves as a lighter, somewhat humorous prop for November’s Day of the Dead. She has become an iconic figure in Mexican culture, representing death and the way Mexicans view it.

History

The skeleton lady was created by lithographer and printer Jose Guadalupe Posada around 1910 as an illustration for Calavera (a satirical epitaph on the hypothetical circumstances of the deaths of politicians and celebrities).

It was originally called “La Calavera Garbancera” by Posada, which translated describes a person who was ashamed of his Indian origin, is chicly dressed (mimicking French style) and wears a lot of make-up to make his skin appear whiter.

In 1948, Diego Rivera, who considered Posada his artistic master, created a mural called Sunday Evening’s Dream, in which he captured 400 years of Mexican history. In this masterpiece, Rivera depicted the end of an era destroyed by the Revolutionary War and the beginning of a new cycle as a modern and more just nation.

Rivera not only painted La Calavera Garbancera, but also named it “La Catrina”. Catrin(a) is a slang term for elegant, well-dressed, wealthy people. La Catrina means a lady, a woman of the upper classes, who was personified as a female skeleton wearing an elegant dress and a hat with feathers, according to the 19th century fashion of the time. Thanks to Diego Rivera, the skeleton lady has become an icon in Mexican culture and is traditionally used on the Day of the Dead, especially during urban celebrations. Posada and Rivera captured Mexicans’ comfortable and intimate relationship with death on this figure.

Meaning

The symbolism of La Catrina relates to the Mexican Day of the Dead. In the perception of the Mexican, death is the continuation of life, which here on earth is only a flicker, something fleeting, impermanent, and the real one begins only after death. Death is the essence of life, which is why images of death are presented in the form of dancing, drinking and laughing skeletons. On the occasion of the Feast of the Dead, competitions are organised, as well as large folk art exhibitions with death as a theme, such as poetry competitions, for the most beautiful altar in honour of death or the dead. The Catrina motif appears every year during the celebration of the Feast of the Dead, both in homes and on city streets.

La Catrina is a very important symbol in the beliefs and culture of Mexico. It shows the passing of time and its inevitability, and alludes to the transformation of the shell of the human body, with the simultaneous immortality and eternal journey of the spirit.

On our website, you will find a wide range of decorations with the figure of La Catrina, both in the form of figurines and ceramic tiles. Keep an eye out for novelties – especially when it comes to figurines, as these are limited editions, available in minimal availability.

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Julietta Torbus

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