Catrina Puppets

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Dia De Los Muertos

Day of the Dead

A Brief History

As the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, more than 500 years ago, they were shocked to encounter natives practicing a ritual that appeared to actually celebrate death. The annual ritual- which is intrinsically a celebration- has been enacted by these indigenous peoples for at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards have unsuccessfully tried to eradicate for centuries. However, the Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, prevails as a colorful celebration of death- and everlasting life.

“Today, people don wooden skull masks called calacas and dance in honor of their deceased relatives. The wooden skulls are also placed on altars that are dedicated to the dead. Sugar skulls, made with the names of the dead person on the forehead, are eaten by a relative or friend, according to Mary J. Adrade, who has written three books on the ritual.

The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them during the ritual. The skulls were used to symbolize death and rebirth.The skulls were used to honor the dead, whom the Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations believed came back to visit during the monthlong ritual. Unlike the Spaniards, who viewed death as the end of life, the natives viewed it as the continuation of life. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it. To them, life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake.” -internet travel industry source

Traditionally inspired costume design for female catrina puppet.

Drawing by William Arthur Mills

La Calavera Catrina

Above: La Calavera Catrina ('The Elegant Skull') is a 1913 zinc etching by Mexican printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada. The image has since become a staple of Mexican imagery, and often is incorporated into artistic manifestations of the Day of the Dead in November, such as altars and calavera costumes. The etching was part of his series of calaveras, which were humorous images of contemporary figures depicted as skeletons, which often were accompanied by a poem.

The word catrina is the feminine form of the word catrín, which means “elegant”. The figure, depicted in an ornate hat fashionable at the time, is intended to show that the rich and fashionable, despite their pretensions to importance, are just as susceptible to death as anyone else.

“May I now have the next dance, Darling?”

10 Foot Tall Male and Female Catrinas


Catrina puppets coming to life for Day of the Dead touring celebration beginning in New York City. The “elegant skeletons” begin to take shape here at Geppetto Studios (Sunset Park, Brooklyn).

Photo: Theresa Durand


As the “elegant skeletons” gracefully dance away...

And Catrinas love the night life, too...