These Stunning Photos Show How Women in Mexico Celebrate The Day Of The Dead

Among the many faces in the crowds filling the streets to celebrate Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, this weekend, there will likely be a very familiar one: La Catrina.

The macabre skull donning a fancy hat, who is sometimes called the "elegant skeleton" in English, has been a part of folk culture in Mexico for more than a century. But in recent decades, she's become a staple during Day of the Dead commemorations. The annual Mexican holiday, which honors those who have passed on, will be marked on November 1 and 2.

"She’s a playful skeleton. There’s that playful, festive atmosphere also on Day of the Dead that characterizes the Mexican approach to death in general," said Andrew Chesnut, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor of religious studies who specializes in Latin America. "It’s hard to imagine the Day of the Dead commemoration without her."

La Catrina was created by cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada at the start of the Mexican Revolution as a commentary on the rule and Francophile tastes of authoritarian leader Porfirio Díaz and the aristocratic class. Some suggest the character was based on Díaz's second wife.

"He created the character, really, as a satirical figure to mock the Eurocentric Mexican elite, whose policies were resulting in hunger and starvation for 90 percent of the Mexican populace," Chesnut told Refinery29. "The skeleton is the representation of the death of the policies this dictatorship was having in Mexico."

Women dressed as La Catrina often wear a full face of skull makeup and "turn-of-the-century French finery, with the hat and the lacy dresses and such," he said. Unlike Halloween costumes in the United States, La Catrina still carries political and cultural significance in Mexican culture.

While Catrina remains a favorite among revelers, another skeletal icon — the mythical Santa Muerte — has also become a popular icon on the Day of the Dead, according to Chesnut, the author of Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint. The miracle-granting folk saint is believed to be the fastest-growing new religious movement in the Americas, he said, with an estimated 10 to 12 million devotees.

"People ask her for all types of miracles," he said: "health, wealth, love."

Click through to see stunning photos of women paying tribute to La Catrina and the Day of the Dead in Mexico.

Photo: Jan Sochor/CON/Getty Images.
A young woman dressed as ‘La Catrina’ walks through the town of Morelia, Mexico, during the 2014 Day of the Dead festivities.
Photo: Richard Ellis/Getty Images.
Young Mexican children dressed in costumes smile during the 2013 Day of the Dead Festival in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Photo: Luis Acosta/Getty Images.
A girl dressed as La Catrina takes part in celebrations for the Day of the Dead at Mexico City's Zocalo Square in 2008.
Tim Rooke/Rex/REX USA.
Women celebrate Day of the Dead during an official visit to Mexico by Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, of the U.K. in 2014.
Photo: Hector Guerrero/Getty Images.
A woman poses for a photo in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2012.
Photo: Carlos Tischler/Rex/REX USA.
A La Catrina sculpture is lit up by fireworks during a 2012 celebration.
Photo: Jan Sochor/CON/Getty Images.
Young couples, with the women dressed as ‘La Catrina, walk through Morelia, Mexico, during the town's 2014 Day of the Dead celebration.
Photo: Jan Sochor/CON/Getty Images.
A young girl dresses as ‘La Catrina’ during the 2014 Day of the Dead celebration in Morelia, Mexico.
Photo: Jan Sochor/CON/Getty Images.
A decorated skeleton figurine is seen at the altar of the dead, a religious site honoring the deceased, during the 2014 Day of the Dead celebration in Morelia, Mexico.
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