José Guadalupe Posada was a Mexican cartoonist who lived from 1852 to 1913. With a sharp, satirical wit, Posada frequently lampooned society and politics. He is best known for his “Calaveras” (skeleton) cartoons, which have now become associated with the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday.
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The Calavera of the Alley Cat
The Calaveras of the Aristocratic Couple
Posada enjoyed taking jabs at the high society of his day.
The Dance and Party of the Calaveras
Even partying and dancing is soon to be replaced by death.
The Calavera of Don Quixote
The Calaveras of the News Carriers
The newspaper carriers of the late nineteenth century racing and trampling over each other to bring news of death and sorrow.
The Calavera from Oaxaca
A satirical jab at the Oaxaca revolutionaries.
The Calavera Proposal
Marriage is represented as a form of death by Posada.
The Calavera of Señor Madero
Francisco I. Madero (1873-1913) was a wealthy lawyer from the north of Mexico who by 1910 had crystallized around himself the opposition to Diaz’s reelection. Escaping from prison to the north, Madero slowly descended on Mexico city after the outbreak of the Revolution (Nov. 20, 1910) and entered the capital in triumph in the spring of 1911, becoming President a few months later. He failed to rally the country around him, however, and was forced to combat several rebellions. One of his own generals turned against him, forced him to resign, then had him murdered in 1913.
One of the purposes of the depiction of “calaveras” is to remind us, those with power and those without power, that the end comes for us all.
The Happy Street Sweepers
Even the most mundane activities of life are tinged by death.
The Trolley Car of the Calaveras
A cemetery crowded with victims of the then fairly new electrical conveyances.
The Calavera of Catrina
Catrina represents the “fashionable lady” of the era. The point of the cartoon is the ephemeral nature of beauty and fashion.
Calavera Siglo XX
These calaveras represent the turn of the twentieth century. As the nineteenth century departs, the baby calavera of the twentieth century rides in on its back.
The Cigarro Calavera
A popular Day of the Dead icon is the calavera smoking a cigar. Even affluence and high class cannot ward off death.