Many people ask about the significance of the Catrina as she shows up a lot in folk art for Day of the Dead. The history of the Catrina dates back to the famous woodcuts from Jose Guadalupe Posada, who printed political satire newspaper illustrations during the Mexican Victorian period (1890 -1910) This period of Mexican history was called the Porfiriato, as the dictator ruling Mexico was President Porfirio Diaz. Because he loved everything European and especially French, he tried to redesign Mexico in the French style. During his reign of heavy handed, dictatorial power, the European blooded Mexican rich became richer and the indigenous Mexican became oppressed and poorer.
Posada wanted to fuel opposition to the Porfiriato regime with his artwork and tried to elude the newspaper censors by masking the atrocities of the Porfiriato by symbolizing them as skeletons dressed in French finery… thus the creation of the “Catrina”… a wealthy, fancy French woman in her expensive silk dress, feathered boa, big hat, high heels and accoutrement. The Catrin is her fancy, dressed-in-excess companion. People delight in the Catrina image now as it’s synonymous with Day of the Dead.