Death is the great neutralizer. No matter whom we are or what we possess, we are all going in the same direction and headed for one particular place. Nowhere in the world celebrates the end of life quite like Mexico, including Puerto Vallarta.
The Mexican Revolution gave birth to La Catrina in the late nineteenth century, created by a talented engraver Jose Guadalupe Posada when he satirized the government, the governing, and the ruling class. The original name for La Catrina was actually La Calavera Garbancera, a name that the working class and poor used to refer to Mexicans who held their native heritage in contempt and made every attempt to pass as Europeans. The skeletal resemblance came from the propensity to wear very pale makeup, in an effort to whiten the skin. With Mictecacihuatl, the goddess of death of the underworld as his muse, Posada came up with what we know today as the current image of La Catrina.
Mictecacihuatl is the keeper of bones in the underworld; the ancient overseer of Aztec fiestas. In modern times, these celebrations have become intertwined with All Saints’ Day and other adopted ceremony of the Catholic Church.
Posada’s creation was the simple headshot with an ornate aristocratic French hat. Credit for changing her name is given to Diego Rivera, who took the hat-adorned head of Garbancera and gave her a full body, completely dressed in elegant clothing. Her debut can be seen today in Mexico City on the preserved mural Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (“Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park”) at the Museo Mural Diego Rivera. This revered display of Rivera’s art is laden with much symbolism, innuendo and legend. Trips to Mexico City can be arranged by your choice of travel agents in Puerto Vallarta.
La Catrina has always represented the disparity between the classes of Mexico and as much as there are those who claim things have changed, the reverence to this symbol only succeeds to point out how things have truly remained the same. Before the revolution, the rich enjoyed many privileges completely unavailable to those with less money. Though there is much more visibility of the lower classes in current times, poverty is still a huge political issue and daily wages remain at amazingly low levels.
Given that, the imagery of Mexico and her celebrations is a testament to the differences between borders. Though citizens of the USA see death as something to be feared and avoided, Mexicans are able to maintain a sense of humor regarding death. They remember their loved ones who’ve passed on with total awareness and spend hard earned money on gifts for the dead. They couldn’t care less who takes offense.
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