The Catrina: The true story about this character

The Catrina: The true story about this character

Hello loves! Hope you’re doing fine! The Day of the Dead is my favorite Mexican holiday, so I wrote about the story of a traditional character of this date: La Catrina.

By Andy Ochoa / Photography: Pinterest

October 30th, 2020

In recent years, dressing up as a Catrina has become popular to celebrate the Day of the Dead, one of the most deeply rooted traditions in our popular culture. However, how did the character of La Catrina came to life?

Let us remember that the Day of the Dead is a festival that mixes its Aztec ancestor with Christian traditions of the Spanish colonial influence, so each of the elements of this festival, such as altars and sweet skulls, are a syncretism of these two cultures.

Unlike other countries, skulls have a positive meaning in Mexico. For example, in the Mayan culture they represented a kind of rebirth, while in the Aztec culture, these were placed in the tzompantli, an altar used by the Mesoamerican peoples, which gave rise to the altars and sweet skulls that we know today.       

Another of the symbols of this festivity are the cempasúchil flowers, a kind of yellow marigold known as “the flower of the dead”. In Aztec culture, it was believed that they helped guide the souls of the deceased, hence they are used to decorate altars.

So how did La Catrina came into the scene? The combination of skulls and flowers gave rise to this character in the 20th century. Since, during the government of Porfirio Díaz, the images of skeletons and skulls were a common form of denunciation and social criticism.

It was then that the cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada invented the “Calavera Garbancera”, to refer to the people who sold garbanzo and who, having indigenous blood, pretended to be Europeans, despising their own race and culture.

Later, the muralist Diego Rivera baptized her as “La Catrina”, which became famous in the mural “Dream of a Sunday afternoon in the Alameda Central” of 1947, where he represented himself with La Catrina, Frida Kahlo and José Guadalupe Posada. Currently, this mural is in the Diego Rivera Mural Museum in the Alameda of Mexico City.

Thus, the Catrina dressed in flowers, a mixture of beauty and terror at the same time, is a source of inspiration to dress up during this celebration, recognized not only in Mexico, but in the world.

Now that you know your story, would you dress up as Catrina?


Andy O.