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Four Traditions Incorporated by the Day of the Dead

Day of the dead, a very lively tradition

Imagen de Four Traditions Incorporated by the Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico has been enriched by the passing of the centuries and there are elements that were not originally considered part of this holiday. Instead, little by little they’ve become part of the tradition. Here we present four of them.

Chocolate skulls 
Sugar skulls are one of the most symbolic elements for the Day of the Dead holiday, and they trace their origin to the alfeñique, a candy or jam from Spain made from sugar. 

The original sugar skulls were used in different rituals and pre-Hispanic celebrations, in addition to the tzompantli, an altar formed by one or several rows of skulls.

But today, the skulls can be prepared with different ingredients, such as almond paste, chocolate, gelatin or amaranth and they even come in different shapes such as pumpkins or ghosts.

La Catrina
The skulls were commonly used by the cartoonists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a way of social criticism, but the most transcended character in time is what is now known as ""La Catrina"".

Sketched in 1912 in an engraving of José Guadalupe Posada, this skull that had no clothes and only wore an elegant feather hat, was a criticism of the ""garbanceros"", a word used to describe those of native origin who denied their roots and favored European customs. 

Later, this ""Calavera Garbancera"", which was its original name, was used by Diego Rivera in his mural ""Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central"", giving it the shape and elegant clothes with which it is usually identified at the moment. In addition, it was that painter who baptized it as ""La Catrina"", referring to the catrines, which were the elegant men of the time.

As such, “La Catrina” began as a form of social criticism and it was only after a time that it became synonymous with the images, decorations, and representation of the Day of the Dead. 

Skull Makeup 
After “La Catrina”, another tradition that became a part of the celebration towards the end of the 20th century was that of the skull makeup. 

At the end of the 80s and 90s, there was a cultural movement in Mexico, led by rock music with bands like Café Tacvba or Caifanes, in which national symbols were prominent. It was at that time that white base makeup and black lines with large circles that resemble those of a skull became popular.

Today, any elegant skull costume, male or female that comes with this type of makeup, is often called ""catrina"" or ""catrín"". Although the use of costumes are closer to Halloween, this touch makes it distinctly Mexican.

Large Offerings
During the second half of the 20th century, exhibitions with various altars of the dead were popularized in order to display the inherent creativity of different people and groups around the Day of the Dead.

Over time, these exhibitions became larger, to such an extent that they no longer fit in museums or cultural houses and, for a couple of decades, they moved to large open spaces.

Thus, these large offerings no longer only show dead altars, but interventions, installations, models and representations of everyday scenes related to the Day of the Dead theme, in addition to being accompanied by cultural activities that lend a celebratory touch to the holiday.


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