by Ernest Hogan
It’s the end of October, and it’s happening on a weekend: Halloween and Los Días De Los Muertos, that I modestly proposed be made into a three-day fiesta in my novel Smoking Mirror Blues.
And we see her, popping up on the interwebs, and coming to your barrio soon -- La Catrina, the skull-faced lady with the fancy hat.
She first showed up in a zinc etching by José Guadalupe Posada somewhere around 1910, 1913-ish -- ¡LA REVOLUÇIÓN! Posada intended her as a caricature of the rich, catrina, in spanish meaning well-dressed, rich, fop, dandy.
The etching, and image, without the benefit of an internet or social media, struck a cord with Mexican culture, and became a popular icon.
Diego Rivera modernized her between 1947 and 1948, providing her with dress and feathered serpent boa in his mural Sueno de un Tarde Dominical en La Alameda Central -- originally in the Hotel del Prado on Alameda Park, but moved after the building was damaged in the earthquake of 1985 and torn down. It’s now in the Museo Mural Diego Rivera, Mexico City, Tenochtitlán, La Capital Azteca. Rivera also made her an avatar of Aztec Mother Godess Coatlicue, adding another layer to her idenity.
Since then, she’s evolved. Today’s Catrina wears the sugar skull face make up, and is glamorous -- taking us back to the 18th century Scots meaning, enchantment, magic, and the fact that the word is an alteration of grammar, which in the Middle Ages refered to occult parctices associated with learning -- and sexy in ways not yet franchised by Hollywood and the fashion industry. It’s a different, subversive concept of beauty, similar to that of the Goths, whose style is being toned down and absorbed by nerd culture, that is in danger of becoming another corporate marketing strategy.
I keep hoping the nerds will see beyond the suburban bubble that they are kept in, get inspired, go wild, and scare the crap out of those who are trying to control them. Encounters with La Catrina can help with this, because no one can control La Catrina. She’s a goddess -- like her sister Santa Muerte -- the return of an ancient, elemental thing that cannot be tamed.
Have a weird and wonderful Dead Daze!