September 11, 2021

Discovering La Catrina: Unmasked

La Catrina: Symbol of Day of the Dead in Mexican culture

Who is that eerie lady?

The Day of the Dead in Mexico is unlike any other holiday in the world. It is a celebration that combines Aztec customs with Christian traditions influenced by Spanish colonial rule, and which has evolved into a colorful and symbolic ceremony that has transcended borders. 

"La Catrina" is one of the most representative icons of Mexican culture.

But, where does this eerie lady come from and why?

Catrín (ka-treen) is a Spanish word used to mean gentleman, but additionally associated with the spirit of a traditional dapper man; hence, the word catrina (ka-tree-na) refers to a woman.

The history of the Catrina in Mexico dates back to the beginning of the last century. During that time, texts written by the middle class began to criticize the country's situation as well as the privileged classes. These texts were written in a mocking way and accompanied by drawings of skulls and skeletons that were reproduced in the newspapers.

José Guadalupe Posada was a famous engraver, cartoonist and illustrator who, with his social criticism, revealed situations of inequality and injustice in the country and the society.  

Mexican Catrina

"La Calavera Garbancera" by José Guadalupe Posada

"La Catrina" was first known as "La Calavera Garbancera," a moniker given by Posada to engravings in which a woman is depicted in exceedingly exquisite apparel, to mock Mexico's most wealthy sectors.

This character was originally created as a critic of the groups that presumed to possess wealth and great class, despite of being actually of humble roots. Its origin has nothing to do with the Day of the Dead, it was the time and subsequent interpretation of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, that placed it in the collective imagination of Mexico, finally associating it with the popular celebration.


A segment of the mural by Diego Rivera

"Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central" (Dream of a Sunday afternoon in Alameda Park) is the monumental mural in which Diego Rivera paints together several historical figures from different periods and different origins. 

At the center of these characters in Mexican history is the upper-class skeleton in full dress, with a French hat and ostrich feathers; it embodies the misery, political blunders, and hypocrisy of an entire society. On her arm she has Posada, her creator. La Catrina leads Rivera by the hand in the children's portrayal of him, with Frida behind, hugging him as if she were his mother.


"Death is democratic," observed Posada, "since at the end of the day, blond, dark, rich, and poor, all will end up as skulls."

Currently, the figure of La Catrina is the most representative image of the Day of the Dead; it has regained such importance that it is one of the most commonly worn costumes during this time of the year (November 1, 2). It has gone beyond the limits of paper and has become a living part of Mexican culture, so the Mexicans approach death and make it part of their lives by honoring their ancestors but also playing and having fun with it.

The celebration of the dead does not mean that Mexicans are not afraid of death, rather, it is joy because the dead return for a day. To celebrate it, skulls and skeletons are used in different ways, either as decoration, costumes or even sweets.

Nueve Sterling is no exception and to honor the Day of the Dead, here I present you SILVER SKELLIES, a line of silver skeleton jewelry like no other, so you may either dress up as Catrina on those dates, or join your children to celebrate Halloween with suitable accessories, that will make you look spookily radiant. 

Day of the Dead Silver Jewelry in Canada Nueve Sterling