Mexico’s traditional celebration of Dia de los Muertos embraces the inevitability of death. Painting faces in the style of Santa Muerte (Saint Death), Calavera Catrina (Dame Skeleton), or another loving tribute to the counter-Guadalupe icon Frida Kahlo pays homage to the beauty in death, offering eye-candy sugar skulls in tribute to the ancestors.
In the pre-Hispanic era, skulls were kept as trophies and displayed during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth. These ancestors passed down the knowledge that souls exist after death, resting in Mictlan, the land of the dead, not for judgment or resurrection, but for the day each year when they could return home to visit their loved ones.
Olvera Street near downtown Los Angeles burst with color, reverence, and dance for the annual Dia de los Muertos celebration and procession.
Short poems, anecdotes, mocking or reverent tributes, called calaveras or “skulls,” are given to celebrate public or private figures. In Los Angeles, for the last seven years Tropico de Nopal Gallery has taken the custom into the realm of performance art-fashion show-walking altar display.