La Catrina: Meet the Myth

La Catrina by Jose Posada

La Catrina is the most fashionable lady you’ll ever meet, always looking stylish… even in death. Her name comes from the phrase La Calavera Catrina, which translates to “the elegant skull.” She has become an instantly recognizable icon for El Dia de los Muertos, and a collectible form of art, but she didn’t start out that way.

The classic image and the name of La Catrina were created by Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada. He was an illustrator in the late 1800’s who used the skeleton image to mock the lifestyle of rich Mexicans. His popular Catrina image wore a fashionable wide-brimmed hat with feathers and flowers. In the last hundred years, many other artists have expanded on Posada’s original ideas. Catrinas are not only drawn and painted, but often sculpted out of clay. They wear colorful dresses and carry accessories like purses, dogs, and cigarettes.

Catrina by Juan Torres

The lovely Catrina to the right is an example of the clay “dolls” that are produced by folk artists in Mexico. They range in size from less than a foot high to over three feet. This Catrina is a large version at 2 1/2 feet tall. Juan Torres is the artist who created her and he is a master of the art. Torres lives in Capula, town in Michoacán, Mexico where he creates and teaches others to create and sell folk art. I’ve been staring at this piece since it first came in– there are so many details, from the realistic fabric of the dress, to the Mexican flag earrings, and the coyote draped around her neck. That’s right, she’s wearing a coyote as a scarf.

Stop by Xico if you can, in the next few months. As we gear up for Dia de los Muertos La Catrina will be making lots of appearances. And don’t miss the Katrine/Katrina contest at our Dia de los Muertos festival November 5th where we challenge locals to dress as La Catrina or her male counterpart El Catrin.  Make a costume, a mask or paint your face. Costumes for women are generally long skirts, shawls, hats, feather goas and flowers. El Katrin for men is suave and debonair and even sexy with lots of style and glitter. Don’t forget the umbrellas or big sombreros, the more outrageous, the better! Contest starts at 4:30, fill out an entrance form at the Xico galeria or at the information booth on the day of the event!