Emilio Barocio Yacobo, Capula, Michoacán
The making of folk art in Mexico is done in the homes of families and is as much a part of the daily activity as cooking a meal or walking to the market for vegetables. In most families where folk art is made, the process includes everyone from the youngest to the eldest members. A lack of ego prevails, as the process is more important than who makes each individual piece.
Emilio Barocio began making Catrinas over two decades ago. Two of his children are following in his footsteps. Inspiration comes from his own imagination and the spirited skeleton dressed in elegant finery created by José Guadalupe Posada. Unlike many Catrina artists, Emilio gives the male Catrinas equal time. He works in the more "traditional" form of Catrinas as they were many years ago — cruder, not so refined — however, many of his creations are incredibly detailed and all are handmade and one-of-a-kind.
José Guadalupe Posada's (1852-1913) scathingly humorous portraits of society and political figures were never meant to last. Written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries on flimsy newspapers, his satirical illustrations were read by the residents of Mexico City and then discarded. But Posada's prints did manage to survive the test of time, despite the paper they were printed on. Posada considered all members of the community fair game for his satirical wit. His most enduring image is the calavera Catrina, dressed in elegant European finery, adorned with a wide-brimmed, feathered hat. Originally he created La Catrina to illustrate the popular song “La Cucaracha.” Later he used this image to parody overdressed Mexican women who at the time had an obsession for French culture.
At first glance many are appalled or put off with figures of skeletons dressed in outrageous clothing. In Mexican folk art, death is seen as the other half of life and is a common motif. Mexico’s more lighthearted depiction of death is a good reminder for us of the inevitable and there is no more fitting creation than the Catrinas — one of the most whimsical art forms Mexico has to offer.
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