MEXICO CITY – With one week to go until the Day of the Dead, thousands of people on Saturday marched through Mexico City with painted faces resembling skulls to receive the deceased who are set to arrive during this Mexican holiday.
Along the central Paseo de la Reforma avenue, dozens of cultural, regional or neighborhood groups of the capital walked, danced and sang with elaborate makeup and colorful dresses representing death.
Skull women, known as Catrinas, are the most popular icon of the Day of the Dead, which was created in 1912 by the Mexican lithographer Jose Guadalupe Posada, although it was muralist Diego Rivera who popularized it.
During the Mega Procession of the Catrinas, the march which ended in the central Zocalo square, many Catrinas went beyond the traditional gowns, wide-brimmed hats and feather stoles.
While some were dressed as metal music fans, others were inspired by the steampunk universe, rockabilly fashion or the culture of each of the 32 states of the Mexican Republic.
There were also those who, through their painted skull faces, sought to remember the Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata on the centenary of his death, the singer Elvis Presley or the characters of the film “Coco,” which popularized Mexico’s Day of the Dead around the world two years ago.
Along the way, 200 makeup artists painted skulls on the faces of people marching, many of them children excited to see the Catrinas handing out candy.
Ariana has attended this parade every year since it started four years ago and sees it as a way to keep Mexican traditions alive.
“They realized that many foreigners saw what we didn’t see: to reclaim our own. We’re turning back to see what we really like, our traditions,” she told EFE.
Ivonne was pleased that an increasing number of people were gathering every year in the parade, alleviating her fear of losing this Mexican way of understanding death, something foreigners often find difficult to comprehend.
“Mexicans make a lot of fun of death. We welcome death with a party for the deceased and loved ones who come and visit us,” she told EFE describing the Day of the Dead, which is celebrated on Nov. 1-2.
She admitted though that it was not always easy in the face of the country’s wave of violence, where about 25,890 people have been killed so far this year.
“It’s very ugly to hear about people dead all over the place,” Ivonne said.
Posada created this skull icon to criticize domestic help who wanted to look and dress like the wealthy women of the post-revolutionary era in Mexico City.
The skull is painted on the face bearing an expression of happiness, and the head is covered in a broad hat adorned with feathers and flowers.
But it was Diego Rivera who popularized the Catrina by including it in the center of his famous mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central,” in which death was portrayed as an elegant woman of high society.
According to the tradition of the Day of the Dead, which has pre-Hispanic roots, on the night of Nov. 2 the souls of the deceased temporarily leave their world to visit their living loved ones.
Mexicans prepare for the occasion by placing orange petals of Aztec marigold in their houses to guide the dead. They remember their deceased loved ones with their photographs and prepare their favorite delicacies so that they can enjoy them upon their return.