Dead Skeleton (Calavera) Art Anthropology Research Paper

Pages: 10 (3182 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Death and Dying  (general)

The uniqueness of the celebration of the Day of the Dead is in the food offerings practiced by Mexicans. This is because this is a cultural practice only evident in Mexico, and the existing elaborate presentation of the food sacrifices and sugar moldings makes use of sugar as a principle ingredient for sculpted figurines symbolic (Frank 26). There is an outstanding sculpturing of sugar animals, skulls, caskets and cadavers. This is a tradition that dates back to the eighteenth century, and it has spread throughout Mexico and even over to the United States.

In the colonial era, sugarcane figurines existed, and that spells out a significant connection between colonialism and sugar. The presence of multicultural societies brought the introduction of new practices and habits, which influenced homogeneous societies to take up new lifestyles like the sugar culture (Milotes77). There was an increase of sugarcane tasting in the sixteenth century and that has widely spread over to the post-colonialism period. There was a rapid change in food preferences during colonialism period. The European military maintained significant economic power and might. The colonies produced what the metropolis consumed, and it stayed away from the workers tables ill the sixteenth century. Through previous quantitative studies, the evidence is that sugar stayed unpopular to European workers before the sixteenth century because of no access to sugar, despite its already wide consumption in India. In the colonial era, eating of sugar spread and there was production of different products to satiate the need for sugar.

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The sixteenth century is a period that reported massive deaths and destruction through multiple causes (Milotes77).There were outbreaks of diseases and war that caused massive destructions, which inflicted the lives and memories of people. For this reason, the celebration of the Day of the Dead has deep connections to the massive losses experienced in the sixteenth century from warfare and disease. Other than the deaths, there was also the forceful displacement of people into strange territories. With towns newly designed and gridded, those in authority forced people forced to stay in them to facilitate the ease of civil tracking and taxation.

Research Paper on Dead Skeleton (Calavera) Art Anthropology Assignment

Death comes to people of all calibers, ages and origins. That is the essence of the day of the dead celebrations. When someone dies and, the celebrations for his send off commence, families must respect the rituals because any contrary disrespect of the ritual is a taboo. The ceremony has run long for centuries making it an ingrained practice in the Mexican culture for the honoring of dead souls. Just as death comes to all young, old, poor and rich people, there must be reverence to all souls for the maintenance of blessings within the family. Any disrespect to the occasion deserves punishment, which comes to the living or dead.

The influences of the creation of the Calaveras and its relation to old traditions like the dance of the dead still present varying aspects of life and death. In the Dance of the Dead, there is mockery of targets by the living. It illustrates the all-consuming power of death as constituted for the living and the dead. Looking at the Calaveras, a different perspective comes to place through the prints, as there is no life representation in the artwork; people are skeletons. However, there are aspects of life that never end and people must learn to accept them and hope for their continuity even in death. Through the presentation of the glamorous and fancily dressed skeletons, the message, which goes through the minds of the people, is one of joy (Carmichael & Sayer 55). The created imagery is that passion, fallibility, tumult and joy never end even when people die. That is what the day of the dead skeleton art aims at achieving. The materials used to make the skeletons do not matter: paper, sugar, candy or chocolate, it is a welcome approach for accepting death in a warm and natural manner (Frank 26).


There are several interpretations of the Day of the Dead. According to some researchers, it is a representation of Mexican contempt for death (Paz 57). It is also a representation of Mexican's obsession with death (Lope Blanch 8). There is also the interpretation that it shows an in attitude of indifference towards death, little regard for life and being fond of dying. All these interpretations have connections to old and present literature regarding the celebration of the Day of the Dead.

The ancient Maya's displayed images of decomposed corpses in print and the forms of artwork as a representation of the Day of the Dead (Frank 26). This kind of interpretation is probably a Mexican loathing of death. It shows that Mexicans fear and hate death as it robs livelihood and leads to wastage of life. However, this is the contrary of the Calaveras because it has all its artwork presentations done in a warm and colorful manner. These can be by use of paper Mache, chocolates or sugar, but all of them hold a humorous edge. The Calaveras are images finely dressed, playful and happy. That is a strange way of representing a skeleton, and it brings about a whole difference as to how the presentation would be made anywhere else in the world. The interpretation of the agility of death through the Day of the Dead skeleton brings a completely new understanding of the meaning of death as perceived by the Mexicans (Frank 26).

Local perspective of the art

Some of the local perspectives of the celebration of the Day of the Dead are the Halloween (Milotes77).This is secularized and celebrated in the United States with a display of ritualized begging, eating of sweets adornment of skeletal costumes and skull like lanterns in a trial of having a connection to the contemporary events in Mexico. The celebration of the Halloween in the United States of America has connections to the Mexican celebration to the Day of the Dead. The relationship of the celebration of the Day of the Dead and the All Souls Day, as well as All Saints day is a yearly celebration set for November and upheld highly by all Mexican families as a celebration for the veneration of the dead souls. This is through overnight vigils and offerings of water, flowers and food presentations to the dead. There is also the decoration of home alters with decorations used for pleasing dead relatives and loved ones (Stavans 55 -- 71). The somber celebrations are just a representation of the elaborative rituals performed b Mexicans as a gratuity of the lives lived by the deceased. The Calaveras bring about whimsical side of the celebrations of the Day of the Dead through their prominent inclusion in the festivities full of music, gift giving and other forms of creativity.

Influencing factors of culture and natives

The Calaveras has become a significant aspect in the celebrations of the day of the dead through its prominent use in the festive. Its, widespread known, originality lies in the Mesoamerican art of ancient time though typically different from the ancient rigidity and sobriety represented by the images and skulls by Aztec (Brandes 181 -- 218). The celebration of the Day of the Dead is a ritualized celebration for the ingratiation of man and death making death to seem like a friend as a means for accepting death in its natural context. Through the celebration of the Day of the dead, there is the confirmation of the existence of the relationship between death and Mexicans. It is possible to tie these claims to the ideas of Paz in his advancement of the study.

The Europeans can equate a contrary interpretation to the presentation of the day of the dead skeleton displayed in colorful, happy and refined way to the 'Dance of Death'. This is a limber of skeletons performed showing the skeletons luring, leading and dragging mortals to their side. Such an interpretation creates imagery defining the inevitability of death through the demonstrations of its coming in the most pleasant and alluring manner (Frank 26). The cultures maintained by Mexicans in their celebration of the day of the dead makes the Calaveras significance in humorous representations as a constant reminder of the presence of death.


There is so much connection that the Day of the Dead Skeleton says about the Mexican community. It has the, social contextual representation, which through ethnogeny tracing has multiple connections to cultural practices as the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead. It is almost as an urge, to people that makes them prepared to embrace death in the most satirical manner of the realities they may feel comfortable embracing. The Mexican society has a special connection with death represented by rituals practiced in their culture when people die. In the same way, the Day of the Dead Skeleton represents death in a… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Dead Skeleton (Calavera) Art Anthropology.  (2012, July 31).  Retrieved July 5, 2020, from

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"Dead Skeleton (Calavera) Art Anthropology."  31 July 2012.  Web.  5 July 2020. <>.

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"Dead Skeleton (Calavera) Art Anthropology."  July 31, 2012.  Accessed July 5, 2020.