La Catrina is often referred to as Mexico’s Grand Dame of Death. She presides over the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead. In Spanish the holiday is called Día de los Muertos. It is an opportunity to remember and celebrate the lives of departed loved ones.
This is a wild pop-up card! The cover features an elaborately decorated sugar skull surrounded by marigolds and Mexican tin work inlaid with roses, mariachi guitar, candles, incense, bread, and water.
Open the card to La Catrina, a tall, elegantly attired female skeleton sporting a grinning skull with an extravagantly plumed hat on top. Catrina is the Mexican Grim Reaper, the Dapper Skeleton. She symbolizes the joy of life in the face of its inevitable end. The Day of the Dead is a celebration of life, not death.
The character La Catrina is based upon the 1910–1913 zinc etching “La Calavera Catrina” (Dapper Skeleton, Elegant Skull) by famous Mexican printmaker, cartoon illustrator and lithographer José Guadalupe Posada. By drawing Catrina with her fancy plumed hat as a skeleton, Posada was saying, “you may think you’re high and mighty now, but in the end you’ll be dead, just like all the rest of us.”
In the card, La Catrina is standing between an “ofrenda” (altar) and a grave, both highly decorated for the holiday. The pale purple swirl connecting the altar and grave represents the departed soul reconnecting with the living. The ofrenda displays offerings to past family members and friends including food and photos of the deceased and their favorite personal items. The card shows three shelves on the altar:
- Bottom row has fruits, a candle, and a ceramic skull.
- Center row has a row of marigolds, another candle, salt and water to quench the thirst of the spirits, and copal incense to clear away any negative energy.
- Top row features a papel picado (cut tissue paper) banner, along with pan de muerte (Day of the Dead bread), marigolds and a “flaming heart” photo frame.
The four natural elements of water, wind, earth and fire are depicted: tissue paper banners represent the Wind. Earth is represented by food, especially bread. Candles represent fire, and the pitcher is for water.
The scene is surrounded by marigolds which are native to Mexico and often placed on ofrendas and around graves. With their strong scent and vibrant color the golden yellow petals are used to make a path that leads the spirits from the cemetery to their families’ homes.
La Catrina and Day of the Dead have come to symbolize not only the Mexican willingness to laugh at death itself, but being an elegant well-dressed woman, she also symbolizes rich people. Death brings this neutralizing force; everyone is equal in the end.
In Mexico, your purchase of the La Catrina pop-up card supports the Biblioteca Publica’s programs and scholarships for local Mexican youth.
Thanks to National Geographic magazine for Ten top things to know about Day of the Dead.
I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived. ~Willa Cather
Spanish: A mí la muerte me pela los dientes.
English: Death peels my teeth! Which means “Death can’t do anything to me!”
Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone.
No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow.
Once the game is over, the king and pawn go back in the same box.
God pours life into death and death into life without a drop being spilled. ~Author Unknown
A human life is a story told by God. ~Hans Christian Andersen
Either he’s dead or my watch has stopped. ~Groucho Marx
Seize your moment. ~Ernesto De La Cruz from the Disney movie Coco
After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. ~J.K. Rowling
They say such nice things about people at their funerals that it makes me sad I’m going to miss mine by a few days. ~Garrison Keillor
There’s a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out. ~Lou Reed
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. ~Steve Jobs
And last but not least, the founder of Apple, the late, great Steve Jobs said the following at the commencement address he gave at Stanford in 2005 (shortly after his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer):
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there.
And yet death is the destination we all share.
No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be,
because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life.
It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.
Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now,
you will gradually become the old and be cleared away.