Mexican culture is toeing a fine line between embracing Halloween and holding firm to its Day of the Dead traditions. The popular figure of the catrina appears to build a bridge, easing the tension for those who feel that the two holidays are incompatible. To learn more, we visited the Museo de la Catrina.
The Catrina Museum, self-proclaimed as the smallest museum in the world, is celebrating its fifth anniversary this weekend. Five years ago, the Morales Fuentes family made a collection of catrinas, or well-dressed skeletons, for a contest. After the contest, they tried to sell their creations. However, as much as Mexican culture claims that it enjoys making fun of death, Mexican families apparently do not want constant reminders of death on display, staring them down in their living rooms. Therefore, the Morales Fuentes family converted the lower floor of their house into the delightful, macabre museum it is today.
The catrina was originally conceived by the 19th century artist José Guadalupe Posada. At the time, the gulf between the rich and the poor was even more pronounced than it is today. José Guadalupe Posada printed the catrina–skeletons dressed in high-society fashion–to make fun of the rich. The catrina was his way of showing how the rich had fogotten their roots. Or the simple fact of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Posada´s work may have faded onto oblivion, had it not been for the interest of Diego Rivera. Rivera popularized the catrina, making her the 20th century poster child for the Day of the Dead celebrations.
Our informative tour guide regaled us with legends of famous catrinas, such as the Black Widow who had 30 husbands, and consequently became very, very rich. Much like the Evil Queen in the Snow White, she guarded her wealth jealously and refused to share it with her daughter. Filled with terror at the thought of her daughter getting her hands on the Widow´s money, the Black Widow killed her daughter. Oh, the tales to be told at the Catrina Museum!
Beyond the colorful catrinas, they also have a room dedicated to death photography–photographs of dead people propped up to look alive. After all, it often happened a hundred years ago that someone would kick the bucket before their relatives were able to get a decent picture taken of their dearly departed. The solution–bring the body and take a picture. If this room fails to give you the willies, continue down to the end of the hall where they have a genuine mummy on display.
If you still want more death-themed fun, the Catrina Museum offers their “Legend Nights” once a month. $120 provides you with a nighttime guided tour of the museum, and viewing of Mexican Terror Film of the Month, complete with pan de muerto and hot chocolate. Call 844-414-3148 for reservations.
Despite the bits of gruesome here and there, the museum itself is boldly and cheerfully decorated, and the catrinas–whose job is to make fun of death–do their job well. If you need to acquaint yourself with Day of the Dead traditions, or are simply in the Halloween spirit, the museo de la catrina is well worth a visit.
Where is the Catrina Museum?
Head south on Allende straight through downtown Saltillo. (It´s a one-way street heading south.) After you pass the Bird Museum on your left (Museo de las Aves de México), the Catrina Museum will be on your right. As you pass the Catrina Museum, Allende ends and traffic is forced to turn left.
The tour guides suggest parking on the street by the museum. If there spaces, I´m sure it is a fine option. I perfer a parking lot on Allende two blocks below the Bird Museum, just before the Tepanco Restaurant, on the left side of the street.
The museum is open from 10-5. However, this week (the last in October) there are many school groups visiting, so public visiting hours begin at noon. On the 1st and 2ed of November the museum will be open for a solid 36 hours to celebrate their 5th anniversary. Admission is $30 for adults and $20 for children.
Furthermore, they´re sponsoring trick-or-treating on Halloween, touring “Houses of Legend”. They´ll depart from the museum at 6pm on Oct. 31st.
And, if you want to find the Catrina Museum on facebook, click here.