Day of the Dead
The theme of death has always been popular in Mexican art. "Dead"
toys, art and crafts pervade Mexico during late October and early
November surrounding the Day of the Dead (the Dia de los Muertos)
celebration. This festival is a synthesis of Christian and Indian
beliefs in which villagers await the return of their loved-one's souls.
On October 31, the angelitos, the souls of children who died, are
believed to arrive, followed by the souls of the saints on November 1,
All Saints' Day, and the souls of adults on November 2, All Souls' Day.
Elaborate and brightly colored altars containing food and other
offerings are made for the ancestral souls. Streets are vibrantly decorated.
figures of terra-cotta, paper, candy, tin and other materials and
various other representations of death are seen in every market during the Day of the Dead.
Sugar paste, marzipan and bread dough are used to create edible
skeletons that can be eaten or placed on the household altar. Children
make their own coffin
and skeleton toys out of paper, foil, chickpeas and other readily
available materials, or buy ones made out of clay or cardboard. Statues
and figurines depict skeletons
involved in the tasks of everyday
life, illustrating all of life's virtues and vices, and many scenes
juxtapose the skeleton head with religious symbols such as the cross.
Early twentieth-century artist José ‡uadalupe Posada created engravings
that have become representative of the Day of the Dead celebration,
specifically his portrayal of Catrina.
During this three-day festival, ending November 2, death is
"alternately mocked and romanticized by young and old alike." Children
play with skeleton toys and parades are held, but families also visit
cemeteries, carrying flowers, incense burners, lit candles, food and
drink to the graves of their dead loved ones. Bertram Wolfe described
the Mexican attitude toward death as
"mordant-reckless-festive-friendly-familiar," an attitude that is
certainly embodied in the well-loved and widely celebrated holiday of the Day of the Dead.
Espejel, Carlos. Mexican Folk Crafts (Barcelona: Editorial
Oettinger, Marion, Jr. Folk Treasures of Mexico (New York:
Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1990).
to View our Selection of Day of Dead Items
| Day of the Dead | Mayan | Molas | Olmec | Pre Columbian