The Mexican holiday Day of the Dead in Spanish 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. Inside, La Catrina presides over the altar and grave. She is often referred to as Mexico’s Grand Dame of Death.
- Death is democratic, since at the end of it all, blonde, brunette, rich or poor, everyone ends up being a cadaver. ~José Guadalupe Posada
- 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
- I am dying beyond my means. ~Oscar Wilde
- We will all go together when we go. ~Tom Lehrer
A Mexican friend writes:
Mexicans laugh about everyone and everything and well we even laugh about death. La Catrina is always depicted as a skull and she is the one who “takes you” when you die. We laugh about death but we also honor our deceased relatives and remember them dearly by making them shrines on “El Dia de los Muertos.” We set up things that reminds us of them and we adorn the shrine with “Calaveras de dulce” (candy skulls) with vivid colors made of sugar because everything in life is sweet. Skulls remind us that no matter what color your skin was, what your class was, what political party you liked, we are all gonna end up being skulls and people will remember you by the good things you did, not by what you had. Legend says that when you make your dead relatives a shrine they will visit earth that day and visit their shrine, that’s why we put their favorite food, drinks, music and anything he/she liked to make them happy and let them know they will never be left behind, they are still an important part of our lives. Skulls and skeletons are everywhere in the shrine. It makes us fear death a little less and reminds us to not worry too much and enjoy life while we can. But it also teaches us to never forget our ancestors because if it wasn’t for them we would not be here.
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 muerto (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 most important flower is the marigold. Its bright yellow petals are said to represent the sun and act as a guide for the souls of the dead to return home. They are often placed around graves. With their strong scent and vibrant color the golden yellow petals 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. Death brings this neutralizing force; everyone is equal in the end.
In Mexico, your purchase of the La Catrina Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos) pop-up card supports the Biblioteca Publica’s programs and scholarships for local Mexican youth.
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.