Origin of the Mexican Skull
The appearance of the Mexican skull as we know it today began in 1949, when the newspaper “El Socialista” began to offer allegorical epitaphs (called literary skulls) in honor of a character, real or fictional, who behaved in a hypocritical way.
It was almost always related to the claim of wealth or the importance attached to material goods. These literary skulls were accompanied by illustrations depicting elegantly dressed and unusually cheerful skeletons.
Although recently created and of anecdotal emergence, the cult of skulls in Mexico seems today to respond to a religious sentiment that existed before, and the controversy over this matter is remarkable.
The skull is popularized in Mexico during the Benito Juárez government, an era of openness and consolidation of the republic where the upper classes tried to resemble the European elites in their way of dressing and behaving. Mexican skulls This was harshly criticized in newspapers called “de combate” (leftist cut), where often appeared ladies represented in the aforementioned manner.
It would be José Guadalupe Posada who definitively coined the so-called “garbancera skull”, setting the image of a skull dressed in the French way, attending high society events. The allegorical meaning extended to those people of humble extraction who sought to live in opulence.
Thus, criticism is twofold, first, to the excessive importance attached to material goods (the medieval concept ubi sunt), and on the other hand the criticism of those who have no food, pretends to appear otherwise. The painter Diego Rivera, in a 1947 mural, changed the name of garbancera to the present Catrina, whose meaning is similar to the previous one, that of a person dressed in an ostentatious way. Later, in the 1960s in Veracruz, although coming from a previous cult, the figure of Santa Muerte was born. It looks like a Christian Virgin wearing a skull to face; however, its worship is associated with requests for money, love or health and is considered a righteous deity, although it is true that it is especially venerated by people who regularly put their lives at risk. Their adoration has joined the image of Catrina and both enjoy wide popularity throughout Mexico.
Holy Death has developed within the Catholic bosom although it has been constantly rejected by all Christianity as a diabolical cult. How to make a Mexican Skull In this video you will see the complete process step by step so that you can make a Traditional Clay Skull from Mexico: Skull Controversy: Mexico or Europe?
Although the origin of the skull is relatively well documented, there is no consensus in determining whether it responds to a feeling already existing in Mexico and, if so, whether it is purely Mesoamerican or influenced by contact with European culture. Some argue that the origin of the cult of Mexican death dates back to the times of the goddess Mictecacíhuatl, the “Dama de la Muerte”, when the Mexican natives worshipped their deceased relatives, differentiating between children and adults and dedicating to it the whole month of August.
Celebrations such as the aforementioned Santa Muerte or that of San Pascualito, a local saint in the state of Chiapas represented by a skeleton, have existed with some variations for more than three centuries during which they have suffered the veto of the Church.
Another point of view is based on the fact that today the Mexican Day of the Dead coincides with the European Day and the way it is celebrated has resembled the Spanish way until very recently, with the rise of skeletons and skulls. Therefore, it would be difficult to determine whether both cults are related after a period of several hundred years without apparent continuity. Authors of this opinion argue that the origin is eminently European and the figure of Catrina arises from the recent traditionalist sentiments and the recovery of popular culture that took place in various countries of the American continent.
With the intention of adopting an intermediate vision that does not reject any of the hypotheses, the majority of experts choose the syncretic origin of the celebration of the Day of the Dead. In contrast to pre-Columbian or European origin, the holiday would come from a mixture of both religions resulting in a new cult of which both sides are a primary part.