Who is this lady, where did she come from, and why is she getting so much attention? I am asked this question a lot.
Her name is Catrina, and she has become a recognized symbol or icon for Day of the Dead in both Latin America and here in the United States. Yes, she is part of the Dia de los Muertos celebration, but that's not her true origin. La Catrina (below) was one of many skeleton images created by Mexican engraver José Guadalupe Posada.
Posada's calaveras, accompanied by witty social commentary in rhyming verse, were printed in newspapers and reached the farthest corners of the Mexican Republic. They aren't evoking death, but are mocking the living-- their defects, weaknesses and vices. Posada's skeleton caricatures have been called "calaverismo politico" -- his attempt to uncover the "rot of political and social life" in Mexico at the time. The Catrina, an upperclass lady of the turn-of-the-century, is depicted in her broad-brimmed hat and is Posada's comment on the "wannabes" in Mexico at the time who aspired to be everything French. The idea is that the rich may put on airs and wear their fancy clothes, but underneath they are just like you and me. In other words, death is the great equalizer, as we are all mortal.
Above and to the left are more beautiful clay Catrinas from Capula. The paper mache Catrina in the red dress below was made by an artisan in Patzcuaro, as was
the wood batea (plate) below.
The clay plates of Pancho Villa and Don Quixote were made by Fidel Avalos of Capula. The Hernandez Cano family of Zinapecuaro also makes fantastic burnished clay vases and platters with hand painted drawings inspired Jose Guadalupe Posada.
For more information about Dia de los Muertos and Jose Guadalupe Posada, or to purchase some of our folk art, go to: www.mexicobyhand.com