Mexico celebrates the ‘Día de los Muertos’ –Day of the Dead– in a very characteristic way. Unesco declared in 2003 the festival as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The celebration takes place in two days: November 1 is dedicated to the soul of the children, ‘los angelitos’ -the little angels-, and on November 2 to the soul of the adults.
The origins of the cult of the dead in Mexico are remote and prior to the arrival of the Spanish. There is evidence that celebrations were held related to the dead in the Mexica, Maya Purépecha and Totonaca ethnic groups. In general, among pre-Hispanic peoples, it was common practice to preserve the skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals that symbolized death and rebirth.
This popular habit of keeping skulls of loved ones merged with Christian beliefs after the arrival of Hispanic culture in Mexico. The cult of death was almost completely eliminated, but the cult of the dead, the ancestors, persisted with the fusion of pre-Hispanic ideas and Spanish customs.
The celebration of the Day of the Dead would not be the same without the famous ‘Catrina’ or Mexican skull, which became one of the icons of this tradition thanks to the work of the muralist Diego Rivera and the engraver José Guadalupe Posada, who incorporated it into several of their jobs.
The image of the Mexican skull, also known as ‘Catrina’, became popular since 1912, when the Mexican engraver José Guadalupe Posada used them to illustrate some verses about the Day of the Dead with the purpose of social satire.
These Mexican skulls are also made with bread and sugar to be offered on altars at this time, which is why they are also known as Mexican sugar skulls.
These Mexican sugar skulls have become famous worldwide through the work of graphic designers and tattoo artists, to the point that they are recognizable in almost any part of the world.
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