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Book Displays: Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead ~ November 1 - 2
La Catrina. “Catrina” was a nickname in the early twentieth century for an elegant, upper-class woman who dressed in European clothing. This character became infamous in Posada’s La Calavera de la Catrina (The Catrina Skeleton), 1913. Here, the renowned printmaker depicted La Catrina as a skeleton in order to critique the Mexican elite.
Perhaps the most striking grouping is a central quartet featuring Rivera, the artist Frida Kahlo, the printmaker and draughtsman José Guadalupe Posada, and La Catrina.
In Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central Park, Rivera reproduces the original Posada print and adds an elaborate boa—reminiscent of the feathered Mesoamerican serpent god Quetzalcóatl—around her neck.
La Catrina unites two great Mexican artists in this mural: she holds Rivera’s hand as her other arm is held by Posada. Though Posada died in obscurity in 1913, artists later brought attention to his work and he was a significant influence on the Mexican muralists. The fourth character in this quartet is Kahlo. She stands behind a child-version of her husband, with one hand protectively on his shoulder as her other holds a Yin and Yang object.
The story of La Catrina involves three of Mexico’s most famous artists across two generations and the power of art as a reflection of society.
The image was used in 1947 by Diego Rivera for his now-famous mural, Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park in the historic center of Mexico City. The mural depicts Posada’s Calavera Catrina as the central figure, holding a young Rivera’s hand – with the artist’s wife (and important artist), Frida Kahlo just behind. La Catrina is surrounded by important historical figures, indigenous people, and notably – Porfirio Diaz’s wife and daughter.
As practised by the indigenous communities of Mexico, el Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) commemorates the transitory return to Earth of deceased relatives and loved ones. The festivities take place each year at the end of October to the beginning of November. This period also marks the completion of the annual cycle of cultivation of maize, the country’s predominant food crop. The Day of the Dead celebration holds great significance in the life of Mexico’s indigenous communities. The fusion of pre-Hispanic religious rites and Catholic feasts brings together two universes, one marked by indigenous belief systems, the other by worldviews introduced by the Europeans in the sixteenth century.
Featuring ~ the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum Día de los Muertos Interactive iBook is an interactive transmedia book focusing on Latino culture and the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Festival.