Mesoamerica | Frida, Diego & The Muralists
Chicana/o Art | Mictlan | Nepantla Aesthetics
The Road to Mictlan


 La Calavera Catrina,
Jose Guadalupe Posada


The idea that human beings descend into the underworld at death is a central concept regarding the death and the afterlife in ancient Mesoamerica. The concepts of Mictlan (place of the dead) and Xibalba (watery underworld) are significant in the funerary traditions of Mexico. Since 1500 BCE, or possibly earlier, there has existed in Mexico elaborate ceremonial practice grounded in a native cosmology, evidenced by art making, burial practices and pictorial manuscripts. After the invasion of the Spanish and the introduction of Catholicism, ancient Mexican and Mayan conceptions regarding life, death and the afterworld were incorporated into a syncretic Mexican Catholicism and its calendar of festivals and saint days. One of the more noteable ceremonies that continue to honor the dead in contemporary Mexico is the annual Dia de los Muertos festival, a creative, art based, funerary tradition practiced for centuries in Mexico and more recently innovated in Chicano/Latino communities in the United States.

Referencing the lithographs and engravings of the master Mexican printmaker, Jose Guadalupe Posada has been a standard, iconographic practice in 20th century, Day of the Dead inspired, popular art. Posada is often recognized as an art hero of the Mexican Revolution and a founder of modern Mexican aesthetics and graphic art by artists such as Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, Jean Charlot and Leopoldo Mendez.