Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Día To Remember - Día De Los Muertos And Its Massive Influence

I love soundtracks, but this will get all your senses firing for what lies ahead:

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm preparing for the biggest move of my life,
so from now until New Year's (since I'm flying out on Xmas Eve),
I'll be taking some time to reload between rounds.
I'm renewing my license and passport (more on that later), getting my dog a puppy passport,
and liquidating almost all of my earthly possessions.
After all, you can't take it with you, can you?

On that note, I hope your hunger has been satiated with enough Halloween Eye-candy for now,
because I want to move on to a traditional holiday that's just as fun and festive,
with just enough frightening and freaky:

Photo and Info @ El Candil De Los Pensamientos

Día De Los Muertos

This holiday has been largely misunderstood as being a cult celebration of death, but the beautiful juxtaposition is that it's the celebration of the life of the people who have crossed over to the other side, and a day when they are honored by the living, who decorate their graves with marigolds, their favorite foods, and other gifts to the dead.

No matter how you look at it, the visual spectacle is undeniably vivacious!

One important point to take note of: Día De Los Muertos is not Mexican Halloween.
That would be el Día De Los Brujas, which you can check out too.
Día De Los Muertos is a traditional Aztec Holiday which was celebrated 
3000 years before the conquistadors invaded and tried to eradicate the holiday completely.
But the old Aztec spirits die hard, 
or hardly at all. 

This Holiday's scenes and symbolism have infiltrated the hearts of millions,
and it's no longer solely celebrated in Mexico, but within many states in the US, 
and its art is receiving worldwide recognition.
There are similar celebrations that have been observed in countries and continents
such as Spain and Brazil, and similarly themed celebrations take place in 
Asia, Europe and Africa as well.

Honoring the deceased is not so esoteric after all!
However, the symbolism of Mexico's Day of the Dead is as 
unique and individualized as it gets.
Not to mention indisputably colorful and fantastical!
For more info on the traditions and festivities, visit these sites:

The Sugar Skull

Arguably the most recognizable symbol of the Holiday is the Sugar Skull. In ancient times, the aztecs kept skulls as trophies to symbolize death and rebirth.
The modern sugar skull is a mild and almost endearing representation of this ancient practice,
without the repercussions that would ensue in modern day society.
The skulls are a tremendous part of the tradition, with the name of the deceased inscribed on the forehead. 
They are then 
eaten by the 
 Rebirth indeed, 
in the form 
of a sugar high.

True artisan sugar skull makers use 50 year-old molds for the competition at the Feria de Alfinique in Metepec, Mexico. These sugar sculptors have been making artisanal sugar skulls for generations.
It's common to find sculptures all over that can be displayed at home year round.
And why not? As a reminder that death isn't always gory or scary, it can be colorful and decorative, too.

Shingo Shimizu
Shepard Fairey
 Modern artists have been inspired by these cute and creepy curios for quite some time. 
To the left, the notorious:
Shepard Fairey
To the Right, the incredible
graphic designer and illustrator:
Shingo Shimizu

"The Lady of the Dead" aka The Catrina

Another common visual that you will see in sculptures, painting and prayer flags is the Lady of the Dead, now known as the Catrina.
In the original Aztec ceremonies, which lasted for a month (not just November 1 and 2)
this was the Goddess Mictecacihuatl for whom the festival was dedicated. Also know as "Guardian of the Bones, "her role is to keep watch over the bones of the dead, and is said to be the spirit of a girl who was sacrificed as an infant. She is believed to preside over the ceremony to this day.
The Catrina has become the modern interpretation of the The Lady of the Dead,
and has become a subject of infatuation among many painters dating back to the turn of the 20th century to the present.

Jose Guadelupe Posada

One such artist is Jose Guadelupe Posada. His images dating back to the early 1900's have been engrained into the minds of many.
"La Catrina," the illustration of the high society woman is one of Posada's most highly regarded pieces. It's also one of the most recognizable image of the Día de los Muertos celebration.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/ent/dead/articles/dead-history3.html#ixzz2AphVeqeW

Posada's best known works are his calaveras, which often assume various costumes, such as the Calavera de la Catrina, the "Calavera of the Female Dandy," which was meant to satirize the life of the upper classes during the reign of Porfirio Díaz. Most of his imagery was meant to make a religious or satirical point. Since his death, however, his images have become associated with the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, the "Day of the Dead".

Modern Artists

I'm a bit biased by this next "phenome" of paintings: One of my favorite artists has payed the Catrina quite the compliment with her enthralling masterpieces. 
Introducing the one and only: 

and her many Catrinas.
This influential and talented temptress of art lovers everywhere has become world renowned for her masterful depictions of the Catrina, among other macabre masterpieces.
A word to the wise, here-in lies some killer makeup inspiration.

Taking it to the streets and straight to the public, marvel at the mural of Beth Emmerich:

As permanent and public as this gorgeous street statement may seem,
there are other people destined to take their magnificent manifesto all the way to the grave:

Catrina Aztec Tattoo

Lock and Key Sugar Skull Tattoo
Sugar Skull Diamond Tattoos

By Adam @ Zulu Tattoo

Día De Los Muertos Body Tattoo

If you're not into "'Til death do us part" with your art,
some less permanent ways to display your creativity will still 
rock the boat over the River Styx:

Amy Feelings Makeup Design

Día De Los Muertos @ Juxtapost
A La Maquina

Idea from Pinterest
Purple Lady Makeup Design

This is still in-your-face, literally. But as bold as these transformations are, 
they can be easily
removed after 
the festivities.

 Want a step-by-step demonstration? Your last wish is granted:

and for los hombres, or the girl who has the cojones:

Enjoy yourself! 

For my last will and testament, if your listening, Spirits, please guide this gorgeous garb into my life:

Tatted Sugar Skull Mask
Diamante Skull Heels

Handmade Sugar Skull Party Dress

 However, making yourself the center of the celebration
is kinda missing the point. While playing the part is fashionably fabulous,
don't be frivolous. 
In light of the spiritual context of this holiday, remember to reminisce on the ones you've
loved and lost.
Included below are some amusing and appreciative ways to pay homage to your 
nearest and dearest deceased.
Regardless of communion and creed, a simple (or ornate) altar is a universal visual
representation of meaningful recognition.
Here are a few tips:

From the most simple to the most elaborate, these images will give you the basic gist. But check out the sites below 
for a full how-to:

And remember: There's always room for creativity, so make it your own manifestation of ethereal memories.

And if you speak Spanish, this will explain every last detail.
Even if you don't, it still stands as an inspirational view:

Now, as Luis Prima once sang,
"Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think.
Enjoy yourself, while you're still in the pink.
The years go by, as quickly as a wink,
so enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself,
It's later than you think." 


  1. That was such a good read! I learned so much and am fully inspired. Putting Mexico during this time on my master list. <3

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