Catrina, the garbancera skull, the elegant skull, the most partying skeleton, the bony dancer, that vivid image of the Day of the Dead that became the quintessential icon of this holiday in the eyes of the world, has a history, origin and meaning. Find out here!
catrina It is a word that exists in the collective imagination of the world and that is strongly linked to Mexico. Regardless of the language you speak or your country of origin, when you hear it, the image of an elegant skeleton enjoying the partyin the middle of a parade or decorating a beautiful altar of the dead in some picturesque place in Mexico, but…
What is the origin of La Catrina? What is its meaning? What is it really?
The Catrina we know todayis the result of the fusion among the beliefs of indigenous cultures of Mexico and the doctrine imposed by the conquerors of the New World.
This combination of ideologies was the basis for building a new society with new aspirations and norms, where the figure of the skull did not cease to be usedit just took on a new meaning and evolved into La Catrina, the elegant living skull that we see everywhere during the celebrations for the deceased and Day of the Dead.
Whether accompanying a hard social criticismin a famous mural, being the soul of the party or as part of the beautiful decoration of Day of the Dead, The Catrina He is a character whose history and mere existence have such an impact on the Mexican people that, to this day, he continues to be part of all the meanings he has had over time.
know how it was Catrina’s lifenext.
Everything about the Day of the Dead and how it is celebrated in Mexico, here!
Between colorful costumes, beautiful feathers and celebrations in honor of the deceased, the Catrinas dance and enjoy themselves. Learn about the origin story of La Catrina and what has become of her in recent times.
Do you want to have the ideal Day of the Dead celebration? Decorate your altar with these 5 essential flowers to decorate your offering.
The skull, a Mexican symbol since ancient times
In the Prehispanic Mexicothe image of the skull it was present in everyday life, as well as death and the new universe that opens up around us once we have transcended.
both in the Tzompantli, a large wall for ceremonial purposes made of human skullseven in the funerary rites of each town in Mexico, skulls and skeletons were sacred vestigesWell, in fact, most of the original cultures of Mexico, such as the Mayan, kept the remains of their loved ones close, because a belief shared by all indigenous cultures is that if a body that remains in the bones, it is because the That person’s soul has reached its destination, either in some underworld or as a new life.
With the arrival of the Spanish, the ancient beliefs about death and the worship of skeletal figures such as the lord of Mictlan, Mictlantecuhtliwere completely erased and from there new stories were born, but now with Hispanic names and divine connotations of a Christian/Catholic nature.
Meet the sugar skulls!
For a long time, the calacas kept silent and adapted to the new forms of the conquered Mexico, They continued to be part of the town’s festivities and although their figure had been stained by the negative connotations that the Spanish gave them, they gladly accepted their fate, since they no longer had much to lose and everything to gain.
What does the Day of the Dead offering contain? Learn everything and put together your family offering, here.
The literary skulls are born, the first bony pachangueras precursors of the catrina
It could be said that the literary skulls were born at the end of the 1700s, in one of the most controversial writings for the time in which it was made, it is about “The portentous life of Death” of Fray Joaquin Bolaños. In his work, the friar masterfully portrayed the understanding that the natives had about death.
Later, during the time of the viceroyalty and long before there was la catrina as we know her nowthe first literary skulls were born, as they continue to be written to this day, although unfortunately, it is a tradition that has been forgotten over time.
At first, the literary skulls were verses written as social criticism, inspired by the epitaphs of the bourgeoisie. The criticism focused on the social inequalities and other injustices that people of indigenous blood experienced every day; the mestizos, humble workers from other parts of the world and even some poor Spaniards or those who had fallen into disgrace.
At first, these verses began to be accompanied with small but beautiful skull illustrations dancing, celebrating or doing some daily activity. This was the main inspiration for the party attitude and fun situations that the catrinas we know today always find themselves in.
The main objective of both the writings and the illustrations was to denounce the political errors, the misery that was suffered and the hypocrisy of the upper class, as well as of the people who aspired to it. It was during the governments of Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada, Benito Juarez and Porfirio Diazthat pencil and brush artists like Constantino Escalante, Santiago Hernandez and Javier Manillamocked and forcefully attacked the government and the privileged classes.
3 Day of the Dead legends to tell by candlelight!
Catrina or Catrín, those well-dressed chachalacas who walk the streets of Mexico on the Day of the Dead, officially had their origin in 1912, when the engraver, illustrator and caricaturist, José Guadalupe Posada Aguilar, gave a face to the literary skulls, that had been around for a long time as part of a criticism of high society.
Discover these 3 Day of the Dead legends for children who sleep late. Do you dare to read them at night?
The first Catrina, the Garbancera Skull by José Guadalupe Posada
During The Porfiriatoone of the main criticisms was towards those Mexicans with indigenous blood who, consequently by the destruction of their original peoples and the demonization of their beliefs; they denied and rejected their own race, heritage and culture.
The engraver, illustrator and caricaturist, José Guadalupe Posada Águilar, took the figure of the skulls that accompanied the literary skulls and made the engraving called “La Calavera Garbancera”, the first image of the Catrinabefore donning fancier outfits.
The original engraving is in metal and it is called garbancera because that is how people who sold chickpeas were told and who, even though they had indigenous heritage, preferred to pretend to be Europeans.
According to José Guadalupe Posada, his Calavera Garbancera, the first Catrina, He has no other attire than his opulent hat, because in his own words, some people are…
“…In the bones, but with a French hat, but with its ostrich feathers”.
What awaits us after death? Here the answer, according to the Mexican cosmogony.
Catrina, the icon of the Day of the Dead is born
Later, in 1947the wall Dream of a Sunday afternoon in the Alameda Central of the famous muralist Diego Rivera, was the one that gave the definitive image to the handsome skull of a lady of high society and she was known thereafter as Catrina.
Catrina or catrín, refers to people dressed in gala attire, who generally belong to a high sector of society. The art piece was carried out by the teacher Diego Rivera and a young Rina Lazorepresenting a synthesis of the Mexico history between the 16th century and the first half of the 20th century. Among the characters that are on the scene are the viceroy Luis de Velasco, Agustín de Iturbide, Antonio López de Santa Anna, the Cuban writer and liberator José Martí.
Among the remarkable aspects of the work, one of the most singular is that right in the middle, you can find Diego Rivera as a child next to Frida Kahlo and next to José Guadalupe Posada, who leads his Chickpea Skull, pompous with her European hat, but this time she was also portrayed with an elegant long dress and a colorful feathered stole that evokes Pre-Hispanic Mexico, since it represents Quetzalcoatl. This was the first image of the Catrina as we know it today and probably the reason why its figure became the quintessential symbol not only of the Day of the Dead, but also to represent the sorrows of the country, which we face with a smile on our face and a party attitude.
Discover the Xoloitzcuintle, the dog that the gods sent to guide us through the other world, here.
The mural was made at the initiative of the architect Carlos Obregón Santacilia, for the Versalles Hall of the Hotel del Prado, formerly located in front of the Alameda Central. Later, the muralist’s work was relocated to the hotel lobby, until the 1985 earthquake damaged the building. In 1988, the Diego Rivera Mural Museum opened its doors with the aim of keeping the mural where the modern Catrina was born.