LA CATRINA SYMBOL AND ICON OF THE DAY OF THE DEAD IN MEXICO
La Catrina is a skeleton woman who wears a large French-style hat over her skull, Its meaning is that death equals us all rich and poor alike.
The image of La Catrina is becoming the quintessential Mexican image of death, it is increasingly common to see it captured as part of day of the dead celebrations throughout the country, it has even crossed the two-dimensional image and has become a motif for the creation of handicrafts, whether made of clay or other materials, which, depending on the region, may vary a little in their dress and even their famous hat, but what have they still been called “catrinas”.
The story of La Catrina begins during the governments of Benito Juárez, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada and Porfirio Díaz.
During these periods, texts written by the middle class began to be popularized that criticized both the general situation of the country and that of the privileged classes. The writings, written mockingly and accompanied by drawings of skulls and skeletons, began to be reproduced in the newspapers called combat. These were skulls dressed in gala clothes, drinking pulque, riding on horseback, at high society parties or in a neighborhood. All of them to portray the misery, the political errors, the hypocrisy of a society, as is the case with “La Catrina”.
The word “catrín” defined an elegant and well-dressed man, accompanied by a lady with the same characteristics.
The original version is a metal engraving authored by cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada. The original name is Calavera Garbancera. “Chickpea” is the word by which people who sold chickpeas and who, having indigenous blood, pretended to be Europeans, whether they were Spanish or French (the latter more common during the Porfiriato) and who denied their own race, heritage and culture.
This is notable for the fact that the skull has no clothes but only the hat; from Posada's point of view, it is a criticism of many Mexicans in the village who are poor, but still want to look like a European lifestyle. Her clothing and changes We owe it to the muralist Diego Rivera, who stripped her of the social criticism that gave rise to her and endowed her with the elegance and figure with which she is known all over the world.
These women were harshly criticized in the verses that accompany the illustration of the authorship of Antonio Vanegas, editor of the newspaper in which Posada worked.
“There are beautiful chickpeas with a corset and high heel, but they have to stop in skulls, skulls of the bunch”, reads in an old copy of the verse sheltered in the museum next to the original metal plate that was used for printing.
The skull is portrayed from the chest up with an expression of happiness on the face and dressed in a wide hat adorned with feathers and flowers.
Posada drew some bows behind her ears, as domestic servants used to use, to “remind them of their origins”.
A few years before the revolution broke out, the artist used to work on illustrations that had death as the protagonist, inspired by characters from everyday life that he approached from satire and acid humor.
La Calavera Chickpea was one of his last works, but he did not see it in print. The engraver created the character in 1912 in a period of depression after the death of his wife and only son, but it was not published until November 1913, 10 months after his death.
The illustration was reproduced on hundreds of loose sheets of the newspaper that were sold for pennies to passers-by in the capital, but remained in the Mexican imaginary when Diego Rivera included it in his mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central”, in which he wanted to pay homage to Posada.
Rivera met the engraver while he was working in his studio in downtown Mexico City and after his death, the muralist contributed to his work being known all over the world.
The “Calavera Garbancera” was later immortalized by Diego Rivera, when the muralist added this painting in his work “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central”, which prompted Posada's illustration to gain recognition from all over the world. Rivera's addition to the “Chickpeacera Skull” was to complete the rest of her body, which ended up “changing her social status makes her an upper class woman and calls her Catrina”
From that moment on, the Catrina is a fundamental part of any celebration of the Day of the Dead on any altar or decoration, in addition to the fact that many women dressed as this iconic character can be observed during these dates.