Day of the Dead

A rep­re­sen­ta­tion and cel­e­bra­tion of death, the im­age may very well be the most rec­og­niz­able icon in Mex­i­can folk­lore

The Playa Times Riviera Maya's English Newspaper - - Front Page - BY ALE­JAN­DRA CAMPO, AN­THRO­POL­O­GIST

What is this cen­turies-old tra­di­tion? Who is La Ca­t­rina? And what are the cus­toms for this fes­ti­val com­mem­o­rat­ing the de­parted?

La Ca­t­rina is a rep­re­sen­ta­tive im­age of Mex­i­can folk­lore. This im­age of an elab­o­rately dressed skele­ton has be­come an art form, and one which has been made out of dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als. Typ­i­cally, she is dressed in black or bright col­ors, wear­ing flow­ing, el­e­gantly dec­o­rated clothes.

The word catrín (mas­cu­line) or ca­t­rina (fem­i­nine), refers to a per­son who puts a lot of ef­fort into their ap­pear­ance and dresses in a lux­u­ri­ous style.

La Ca­t­rina is a char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of death which has been adopted as a Mex­i­can tra­di­tion. It is far from the grotesque or strange, which could be per­ceived by for­eign­ers, and some Mex­i­cans give death a com­i­cal side. This im­age ap­pears in a very par­tic­u­lar so­cial con­text in Mex­i­can his­tory, which is im­por­tant to know to ap­pre­ci­ate its aes­thetic value, sym­bol­ism, and com­i­cal side.

At the end of the 19th cen­tury, the artist Manuel Manilla was the first per­son to char­ac­ter­ize death when he drew car­toons and his char­ac­ters were skele­tons in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions and pro­fes­sions.

Manilla’s draw­ings were eclipsed by the en­graver José Guadalupe Posada, who worked for a news­pa­per and also drew skele­tons in a more satir­i­cal form to crit­i­cize po­lit­i­cal and so­cial hap­pen­ings of the era. He pre­sented, and mocked, the tribu­la­tions of the work­ing class, the priv­i­leged, and the rich in the Por­firian era when any­thing Euro­pean was in style, like the ladies with their big Euro­pean dresses.

No­body es­caped Posada’s draw­ings, for whom death was a sym­bol of democ­racy, since it af­fects ev­ery­one, re­gard­less of so­cial sta­tus. For him the skele­ton was rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Mex­i­can so­ci­ety.

Posada made hun­dreds of th­ese car­toons; the most well known is the Calav­era Gar­bancera - which was later made fa­mous by the painter Diego Rivera who dressed it in el­e­gant clothes and painted it in a mu­ral called Sueño de una tarde do­mini­cal en la Alameda Cen­tral, and who bap­tized her La Ca­t­rina. La Ca­t­rina was based on the women sell­ing chick­peas, gar­ban­zos, on the streets and who wanted to em­u­late Euro­pean women.

This year also marks La Ca­t­rina’s 105th birth­day since she was first cre­ated.

La Ca­t­rina has be­come an icon of Mex­i­can folk­lore, in par­tic­u­lar,

El Día de Los Muer­tos cel­e­bra­tions each Novem­ber 1 and 2, shown through pa­rades, masks, and art.

All are in­vited to come to the event that the Depart­ment of Cul­ture has pre­pared for Novem­ber 1.

There will be an ex­hi­bi­tion of al­tars, con­tests, and the draw­ing of a huge Ca­t­rina at Plaza 28 de Julio, as well as a dis­play of Ca­tri­nas in Playa del Carmen’s Cul­tural Cen­ter.

La Ca­t­rina was based on the women sell­ing chick­peas, gar­ban­zos, on the streets and who wanted to

em­u­late Euro­pean women / Photo: elespa­ciode­

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