Whence el Día de los Muertos Calavera:
“Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park”, by Diego Rivera
The fifty foot fresco takes the viewer on a Sunday walk through Alameda Park, Mexico City’s first city park. The large mural represents three principal eras of Mexican History: The Conquest, The Porfiriato Dictatorship, and The Revolution of 1910. In the center of the mural is Diego Rivera at the age of ten being led by the hand by the Dame Catrina (“La Calavera Catrina“), a skeleton figure parodying vanity created by the popular Mexican engraver Jose Guadalupe Posada. The well-dressed gentleman in a black suit and derby hat is Posada, who stands on the right of Dame Catrina and gallantly offers her his arm. Posada was highly respected by Rivera, who claimed him as one his artistic luminaries and teachers.
Calavera Catrina, a symbol of the urban bourgeoisie at the turn of the nineteenth century may be taken here as an allusion to the Aztec Earth Mother Coatlicue, who is frequently represented with a skull. Coatlicue wears the plumed serpent, symbolic of her son Quetzalcoatl, around her neck as a boa. Her belt-buckle displays the Aztec astrological sign of Olin, symbolizing perpetual motion. The adjacent figure is Frida Kahlo in a traditional Mexican dress holding in her left hand the Yin-Yang symbol of duality taken from Chinese philosophy, which also represents the duality from pre-Columbian mythology. Kahlo’s other hand rest maternally on the shoulder of the young Diego, who sets out on his walk through life and through the world under her protection.
Now, get out your old box of 8 Crayolas and beautify the Calavera!