La Catrina’s Folklore Through the Years

La Catrina’s Folklore Through the Years

The Calaveras Fest is the second most important event of Aguascalientes—only behind the San Marcos National Fair—which was born in 1994 as an artistic and economic initiative from the Cultural Institute of Aguascalientes and the Department for Economic Development. However, with the passage of time, the festival became a tourist attraction and in 2007 the Department of Tourism took over the event’s organization. In 2017, it was renamed the Calaveras Culture Fest, a world renowned registered trademark from our state.

Every year, from late October to early November, the premises at Isla San Marcos hold this traditional festival with parties, altars, parades, concerts, shows, legends, and tours that allow visitors to live and remember our traditions.

Aguascalientes-born lithographer José Guadalupe Posada created a zinc etching entitled “La Calavera Garbancera” in 1914. Some years later, in 1947, Diego Rivera, an artist native of Guanajuato, included it in its mural painting “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central.” The character has been known as “La Catrina” ever since, and the festival is proudly named after her.

At present, many government agencies participate in the organization of this grand festival: the Department of Tourism (SECTUR), the Department for Economic Development (SEDEC), the Cultural Institute of Aguascalientes (ICA), the Department of Rural and Agribusiness Development (SEDRAE), the Institute of the Youth of Aguascalientes (IAJU), and the Institute of Sports of Aguascalientes (IDEA).

The Calaveras Culture Fest aims at protecting and commemorating our very particular Day of the Dead, a tradition that is unique to the Mexican culture.

Desfile de Calaveras (skulls’ parade) is the festival’s main attraction. The parade runs across Avenida Madero, in the Historical Center. Artists and floats alike march along moving stages full of gastronomic samples, craftwork, concerts, plays, and of course, the traditional pan de muerto (bread of the dead).

“Death is democratic. Regardless of your color or creed, your wealth or lack of it, everyone ends up as a skull”

–José Guadalupe Rivera

Posada had originally called its work “La Calavera Garbancera” to mock garbanceros, an adjective used in the past to refer to descendants of indigenous people who acted as and aspired to be European. The bony character became famous after Rivera painted it wearing fancy clothes (the word catrín is used to refer to someone who is well-dressed), giving death a whole new meaning.

The 2020 celebration was cancelled as a result of the health restrictions necessary to hold a live event. Local authorities decided to take it to the digital world as an alternative and continue with the culture and traditions of Aguascalientes. The festival, renamed “Calaveras Contigo” (skulls with you), will include over 100 cultural, artistic, children’s, and sports activities. People will be able to enjoy the event on social media, Channel 26, and different national and international networks. 

One of the most important graphic activities carried out during the Calaveras Culture Fest is the poster design contest. It defines the theme of the celebration year after year. The main objective of these posters is to introduce Posada’s life and work to visitors. These are two samples of the poster contest:

These are some of the posters created between 2013 and 2019