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La Catrina: An international symbol for the Day of the Dead

Mexico's lady of death, La Catrina, is José Guadalupe Posada's most famous character. It is a reminder to enjoy life and embrace mortality.

COLORADO, USA — For many around the world, it is time to remember and honor the memory of their loved ones who have passed, through the creation of altars and offerings, as they celebrate Día de los Muertos, which takes place Nov. 1 and Nov. 2.  

Contrary to what some may think, Día de los Muertos, known in English as Day of the Dead, is not the Mexican Halloween. It is a Mexican holiday celebrated by people from Latin American countries and the United States to honor their ancestors.

La Catrina is an internationally recognized symbol for the Day of the Dead. Many relate it to the illustrations of José Guadalupe Posada, who modernized her in 1910, but her existence goes much further back. 

According to National Geographic, La Catrina is the Aztec figure Mictecacihuatl, the death goddess of Chicunamictlan. Her role was to watch over the bones of the dead. 

During pre-revolutionary Mexico, Posada used La Catrina as a way to criticize upper-class society and specifically described women in high society.

His figures were depicted with skulls instead of faces because "the reduction of every person to bones, no matter of time, place, class or deed gave Posada's images a homogenising quality, the apparent message being ‘underneath, we are all the same,’" according to National Geographic.  

Today, La Catrina is integrated as an emblem of the Day of the Dead celebration in different ways. According to National Geographic, her elegant dress represents celebration, and her smile reminds us that there is comfort in accepting the inevitability of death and that the dead should be commemorated. 

The iconic Catrina has served as an influence for notable Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. It can be found in the center of Rivera's mural Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park, next to Posada.

Día de los Muertos has also made a more recent impact in popular culture. It served as inspiration for the holiday in Disney's animated film "Coco," and gained a younger fanbase while educating viewers about the holiday's importance in Mexico.

The film follows the journey of a young boy who travels to the Land of the Dead and meets his ancestors, who teach him about the holiday's significance.

Where to celebrate Día de Muertos

This year in Colorado, there's an array of events and businesses holding their Día de Muertos celebrations. The Día de los Muertos Celebration at Stanley Market, will display an altar by the creator of the largest altar in Colorado and surely won't disappoint this year.

Día de los Muertos Festival at Denver Botanic Gardens on Saturday, Nov. 5, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Free Cultural First Friday  at Museo de las Americas on Friday, Nov. 4 from 5 to 9:30 p.m. There will be a catrina contest with three cash prizes for adults and three cash prizes for children.

Día de los Muertos Celebration at Stanley Market, Tuesday Nov. 1. at 5:30 p.m. Beto Mojardin will create a uniquely designed altar to honor Colorado's immigrant and refugee community.

CHAC Día de Los Muertos Show Grand Fiesta Community Celebration on Friday Nov. 4 at CHAC Gallery located at 1560 Teller St., from 6 to 9 p.m. 

Día de los Muertos Celebrations  at Santa Fe Arts District on Nov. 4.  

Kachina Cantina: Día de los Muertos, Tuesday and Wednesday starting at 5 p.m. Kachina is celebrating Día De Los Muertos with their special menu running through Nov. 2.

Credit: AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

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