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

Jose Guadalupe Posada was an artist who came up with La Catrina. Posada was making fun of upper class ladies in Mexico who were trying to look like " target="_blank">wealthy European ladies. Posada's caricature of the upper class Mexican ladies who thought that by painting their faces with makeup they would look more like the light-skinned European ladies they wanted to emulate. Posada was making fun of the Mexican ladies, and the upper class in general, because he felt they were turning their backs on their native Mexican heritage.

Considering how iconic La Catrina has become in Hispanic communities, it's pretty ironic that Posada's artistic comment on the upper class Mexican women being ashamed of their heritage has now come full circle and is celebrated by Hispanics.

The Aztec goddess of death, Mictecacihuatl, was Posada's inspiration for La Catrina. She presided over an ancient, month-long ritual that honored the dead. When Christianity came to Mexico, rather than try to stop the ritual, the Church just folded that ritual into their own rituals. It's something that the Church often did and it is probably why what began as a political statement against the Mexican upper classes turned into an essential part of the Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

Traditional mexican Day of the dead altar with sugar skulls and candles

La Catrina began as a simple line drawing of a skeletal female in a fancy hat but she has become an 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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