Make no bones about it, The Day of the Dead — days, actually — are nearly upon us. The signs are all around us.
Just as pumpkins proliferate in the States, here it is the explosion of Catrina figures, skeletons, and marigolds that clue us to the season.
The skeletons and skulls are everywhere: on T-shirts, on handbags, made of sugar, as objects de art, on fabrics, in miniature, in bigger than life papier mache.
Likewise the Catrinas. Elegantly and, sometimes, gaudily dressed skeletons have made their presence known in shop entrances, store windows, street corners.
You might mistakenly think the Catrina is the patron saint of shopping from her presence wherever you may find a cash register and credit-card reader.
Ironically, the Catrina got her start in politics — as a way of mocking the privileged in Mexico. The artist Jose Guadalupe Posada drew the first Catrina in 1910.
As with every revolution, the more things changed, the more the wealthy and powerful class grew. The poor and middle-class resorted to the strongest weapon of the powerless possess — humor. They saw the drawing of Catrinas as a way of pointing out the inequities and of mocking the rich.
Catrins and Catrinas were finely dressed men and women. So, dressing skeletons in the apparel of the wealthy was probably a pretty effective way to send a message.
What could be more shallow than an empty skeleton, dressed in elegant finery?
That was then.
Now, the wealthy are all-in on the Catrina explosion. On the night of the Catrina and Catrin parade, you are likely to see some costumes that represent several month’s wages for a working man.
Fortunately, if you can’t be rich, you can be creative — and so there are many artists in San Miguel who tap into that creative well for eye-popping costuming.
There are no limits on fabulousness when it comes to Catrinas.
We must wait a few days to see the Catrinas and Catrins come to life. The parade on Nov. 1 will fill Centro with the elegantly dressed dead — fabulous in life, darling, even more-fabulous in death.
As we wait for the thousands of Catrinas and Catrins to rise up from the dead and amuse us for a night, you can walk around the city and enjoy the imaginative representations in many storefronts.
The skulls go hand in hand with the skeletons, but I think their roots are closer to the actual Day of the Dead, which is when families sit shiva in local cemeteries and remember their loved ones who have passed on. And many party on — in the name of the dead, of course.
They leave gifts on the graves — flowers, favorite foods and drinks, pictures, music. Altars to the dead are built also and filled with the favorite things that were left behind on this side of the Great River or bridge, or whatever we cross.
It really is a day to celebrate the dead, not mourn. People feel that by conjuring up their memories, they are also conjuring up their spirits.
It is a lovely reunion.
And if you walk respectfully through the local graveyards, you will be welcome.
If you can’t make it to Mexico, pull up the Disney/Pixar film “Coco.” It captures the spirit pretty well.
So, these images are just some snaps from a walk around San Miguel on a Saturday morning. A small taste of the imaginative and creative celebration of loved ones to come.
Many are shot through windows and security bars — which I hope creates an other-worldly feel. That they are resting inert on the “other side” waiting to be called back to life. And sometimes, they yield self-portraits and ghostly figures among the dead!
Plus, I just love looking in store windows in this city.
You just never know what you will see.
Click on individual images to see a larger version:
This is my friend Colin’s pink VW. He dresses it up according to the holiday and of course, he is in Day of the Dead/Halloween mode right now:
And a few more: