www.montereycountyweekly.com OCTOBER 26-NOVEMBER 1, 2023 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 31 CULTURE Many of the traditions of Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday that celebrates the close proximity of the world of the living to that of the dead during late October and early November, are colorful but somewhat solemn—focused on remembering loved ones who have died. But one tradition breaks from this tone—calaveras literarias. Calaveras literarias are satirical, humorous and lighthearted rhyming poems, a Mexican tradition that is related to the Day of the Dead. The poems first appeared in 1849 in the El Socialista newspaper in Guadalajara. The verses mocked elites and their desire to be more European, criticized politicians, complained about injustices or sought the common good. Since the poems were critical of the government and social customs, they were censored in colonial Mexico. Contemporary calaveras literarias were born during the Mexican Revolution, criticizing Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz and the elites. An image that is strongly associated with these poems and the Day of the Dead is La Catrina or “The Dapper [female] Skull,” by José Guadalupe Posada, a Mexican illustrator. La Catrina also appears in Diego Rivera’s mural “Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central.” Today, calaveras literarias are mainly written in the days before the Day of the Dead—and death itself is the main character. The poems can be about cultural and political events, famous people or loved ones (most of them still alive). There’s specific language too—nicknames for the dead including “skinny one,” “skull,” “Catrina,” “hairless,” “grim reaper” or “bony.” Students are exposed to this form of poetic composition from an early age in Spanish language or literature classes. Some classes hold calavera contests. “It’s worthwhile to be able to confront death and to think about it as something as an extension of life and something natural rather than something so scary and taboo,” says Carolyn González, a professor of Spanish and Chicanx literature at CSU Monterey Bay, who has written calaveras. People also make their own traditions. González describes a friend from graduate school who writes a calavera in honor of a dear friend every year, and exchanges calaveras with that friend. On Oct. 26, Artists Ink in Salinas is wrapping a five-week workshop on how to write these poems. DANIEL DREIFUSS In Verse Calaveras literarias—satirical rhyming poems—are a humorous way to experience the Day of the Dead. By Celia Jiménez La Catrina has become a symbol associated with calaveras literarias and, more generally, Day of the Dead. Spooky Season 8000 VALLEY GREENS DRIVE, CARMEL | quaillodge.com/events