Catrina dolls have become an essential part of the Day of the Dead. The dolls, which show skeletons dressed up in beautiful gowns and often adorned with or carrying flowers, are some of the most commonly seen sights in towns around Mexico during the November holiday. The annual celebration, which honors ancestors, employs many visual elements, and few are more striking than these stylized skeletons.
While many symbols have been lost to the ages, the origins of today’s Catrina dolls are quite certain: These iconic images trace their roots to La Calavera Catrina, an etching created by a Mexican print maker named Jose Guadalupe Posada. Called the Elegant Skull in English, the etching popularized the scene of a laughing skeleton. Since it was created in 1910, La Calavera Catrina has become one of Mexico’s most popular images and these dolls are some of the most recognizable incarnations of it.
As cities and towns throughout the country gear up to celebrate the Day of the Dead, it’s increasingly common to see Catrina dolls—on display and on sale. In central Mexico, the small town of San Miguel de Allende, is one of the best places to find the dolls. Its historic town square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is packed with shops that carry the dolls and other fear for Day of the Dead. In the days leading up to the festivals, many families decorate their homes with skeletons and other items. The town square also hosts many special events on and around November 2, including parades and stilt walkers.
Houses throughout Guanajuato also display Catrina dolls in the style of La Calavera Catrina. Nestled in the mountains of north central Mexico, this old silver mining town has a rich heritage and a long past. Its Day of the Dead festivities are some of the biggest around. You’ll find many of the Catrina dolls—many made right in Guanajuato—for sale in its shops. Some of the Catrina dolls are even filled with candy—to the delight of people of all ages.