Dia Official Posters
Skeletons and Papel Picados
Date: July 30, 2012 at 1:32 pm- by admin- Posted in News & Updates and tagged Altars, Day of Dead, Dia de los Muertos, Dia de los Muertos Symbols, History of Dia De Los Muertos Holiday, Mexican Day of Dead, Mission San Luis Rey, Sugar skull- Comment(s): 0
Celebration of the Day of the Dead wouldn’t be the same without the altars and papel picado meant only to last till the end of the fiesta itself. It may seem strange to the people from the West that someone would invest that much time and effort to objects that have no other purpose than to be consumed and destroyed. Mexicans see themselves as empheral beings in an empheral world, so enjoying material objects, but being ready to relinquish them is completely natural to them.
One of the examples that show exactly that is sugar used to make elaborate skulls, angels and animals for the Day of the Dead. They are never saved for the following year. Before, children used to wait all year for parents to buy them calaveras de azucar with their names inscribed in the icing, but today the chocolate skulls are replacing the sugar ones.
Papel picados are cut tissue paper banners portraying scenes of skeletons dancing, drinking and celebrating. It celebrates other events and fiestas as well – white tissue paper is used for weddings, red, white and green commemorate Independence Day. It’s very colorful holiday, but when fiestas end, papel picados are left in the open until they are completely destroyed.
One more tradition is also present at the Day of the Dead celebrations – toymaking. It plays a central role in the Oaxacan Day of the Dead. Among such diverse themes as the Nativity, bullfights and carnival rides, the skeleton is by far the most popular image. Mariachi calaveras in the form of puppets made of painted plywood and string are special favorites among small children. Mexicans found the way of making death more approachable through friendly images, like a dancing skeleton playing a guitar, so they begin to lose their fear of death at an early age.
The name Posada and lively skeletons are linked as few other icons of contemporary Day of the Dead culture. Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) popularized Mexico’s life of the dead in bitingly satiric, mass-produced etchings and lithographs that have enthralled Mexicans for generations. He used to portray social and political personalities as calaveras, so his posters achieved lasting and unrivaled popularity. By caricaturing his targets in their bare bones, his scathing and often risky political satire became funnier and more acceptable in time.
His posters portrayed priests, politicians, farmers and street sweepers all sharing the same destiny – death, showing that money and power cannot help to avoid it. For a country living in extreme social inequality during the Porfirio Díaz dictatorship, the idea of the rich and poor sharing the same destiny was attractive to the masses.
Posada’s Calaveras that were handprinted, accompanied by witty social commentary in rhyming verse, became popular and reached the farthest corners of the Mexican Republic. Even today, his work pervades the image and spirit of Mexican folk artists. The Catrina, the rich lady, always depicted in her broad-brimmed hat, became a classic in Mexican folk art and is displayed prominently in many store windows. The images can be found in everything from fine ceramic and artistic paper mache figures, to inexpensive papel picados and plaster miniatures.