Video by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT | Makeup by Lauren Garcia | Model: Laura Rice
Watch This Stunning Día De Los Muertos Face Painting
The surprising history behind the traditional “La Calavera Catrina” makeup women wear to celebrate the Day of the Dead.
Call it a commingling of the sacred and a spectacle.
Halloween “Texas style” starts Friday and goes through Monday with Día de los Muertos and All Souls Day in between.
It’s been a recent switch, but Día de los Muertos (at least in Texas) is no longer what it once was: a solemn remembrance of those who’ve left us. For better or worse, nowadays it’s a pop-culture extravaganza.
As seen in everything from Guillermo del Toro’s 2014 feature film “The Book of Life” to dinnerware sets sold at supermarkets, adorned skulls in elaborate hairstyles are common sight. The skulls are called Catrinas, derived from the original early 20th century work of a Mexican political print maker Jose Guadalupe Posada.
“That image, has really withstood the test of time and has become one of the most iconic images – not only of Day of the Dead, but of Mexico,” says Dallas art historian Claudia Zapata.
She can’t help but find some irony in the way the image is used today, because in Posada’s heyday, his images were critiques of the vices of society. But today, “literally what you are talking about [is] Day of the Dead as a brand,” Zapata says. “And Day of the Dead as a consumer good that’s trying to reach beyond the Latino market.”
Try asking Austin-based make-up artist Lauren Garcia if the “brand” has succeeded in reaching beyond the Latino market. She’ll tell you she’s booked solid through the weekend with people who want her to transform their faces into the iconic Catrina image. And who are these clients?
“Not Latinos,” Garcia says.
So, what accounts for the embrace of Día de los Muertos in a decidedly non-religious sense?
Part of it is a shift toward secularism in American society in general. According to the Pew Research Center, there are more religiously unaffiliated people in the United States now that there are Catholics of Protestants. Then add some all-American consumerism, and a a dash of fashion.
Catrinas add a colorful, elegant twist to Halloween.
“In my shopping cart I have some beautiful roses I found to put in clients’ hair,” Garcia says.
“Also some beautiful sashes to tie around as well. I’ve also got some really great jewels – face jewels and face pigments – to customize the look the client is looking for.”
More than a century ago, the “look” Jose Guadalupe Posada created also included feathers, hats and form-fitting couture. But it’s unlikely the artist ever would have imagined that the skeletal image he fashioned back then would cross the border – and find eternal life in 21st century pop culture.