Sunday, June 23, 2013

I Love Dia de Los Muertos!

Day of the Dead
Photo by Nicholas Beatty (Patzcuaro, Mexico)

I am absolutely in love with Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), the Mexican holiday celebrated to remember the dead. Colorful crepe paper banners called Papel Picado flutter in the wind at schools and art galleries, and sugar skulls and dancing skeletons are spotted everywhere. The playful imagery associated with Day of the Dead has become world famous, inspiring artists such as Frida Kahlo and Tim Burton.

I've traveled to Mexico and Guatemala to experience Day of the Dead firsthand on a number of occasions. From Oaxaca, Patzcuaro, Baja and more, each region of Mexico is known for celebrating in their own unique way. This makes for a unique sampling of local flavors and traditions for those of us who keep coming back for more.

The Catrina

A famous Mexican artist named Jose Guadalupe Posada is known for inventing the character Catrina in the early 1900s. She is an elegant skeleton woman of high society dressed in fancy dresses with big scarves and floppy hats. She was designed to remind the people that everyone faces death the same, whether they are rich or poor. Visitors to Mexico can find hundreds of different versions of the Catrina gracing business lobbies, art galleries, individual homes and hotels. She is loved by the people and has come to be among the favored imagery of Day of the Dead.

Frida Kahlo

A Mexican artist, Kahlo began painting after a near fatal bus accident left her severely injured. With ample time on her hands during recovery, she spent many hours producing self-portraits. Though she struggled with the label her entire life, Kahlo is considered one of the most important surrealist painters to date. She eventually became the first Mexican artist to sell a painting for more than a million dollars.

Frida Kahlo imagery has become integrated with Day of the Dead and Mexican pop art symbology. You'll find Catrina's fashioned after Kahlo, as well as altars dedicated to her throughout the country. 

Kahlo's contribution to Mexican art and culture has been profound, and she is one of the most celebrated artists worldwide. Her bold style and unique approach to life has been documented time and time again in theatre productions and feature films.

You'll find as I continue to write about world culture and traditions, I return to Mexican culture time and time again. The color and vibrancy of their traditions are so incredibly lively, and family takes center stage as communities come together to celebrate. It is through celebrations like Day of the Dead that visitors can gain a real understanding of traditions and culture of the beautiful people of Mexico. 

Nicholas Beatty is a children's book writer and publisher. His projects explore multicultural themes allowing children to discover the world through whimsical folktales, recipes and activities.

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