'La Catrina', the lady whose painted skull face that is everywhere this time of year because of Dia de los Muertos festivities, has a history that you might not know about. She is a symbol of the afterlife, but she didn't begin her life that way.

The artist who first drew 'La Catrina', Jose Guadalupe Posada, first drew her as a caricature of upper class Mexican ladies who painted their faces with makeup to lighten their skin and emulate wealthy Europeans. Posada was making fun of the ladies, and the upper class in general, who he saw as turning their backs on their native Mexican heritage.

It's pretty ironic that something that was seen as a comment on people being ashamed of their heritage now being embraced as an icon of Mexican heritage.

Posada used the Aztec goddess of death, Mictecacihuatl, as his inspiration for La Catrina. Mictecacihuatl presided over an ancient, month-long ritual that honored the dead, and Christianity folded that ritual into their own rituals. I guess that's why what began as a political statement against the Mexican upper classes turned into an essential part of the Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

As time has gone by, La Catrina, who began as a simple line drawing of a skeletal female in a fancy hat, has turned into the intricately painted and bejeweled Dia de los Muertos symbol we see today. I just love her because she is the mediator between the dead and the living. She shows us that there is life after death, and that our lost loved ones are always close to us. What could be more comforting than that?

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