Catrinas in Mexico City.
Image Reuters

When Jose Guadalupe Posada first started drawing skeletons decked out in the most fashionable European-style apparel of the day back in the 1910s, he probably couldn't have imagined his images catching on as Halloween costumes with American pop stars. But the Mexican illustrator's invocations of the vanity and pretensions of his country's high society - and death's "democratic" way of reaching everyone eventually - have indeed caught on both in Mexico and abroad with the general public and celebrities, the Associated Press wrote on Thursday.

Among the highest-profile Catrinas? Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, who posted a photo on her Instagram account in which she profiles a sexy Catrina outfit replete with a red-and-black shawl and headpiece. Sandra Bullock was also photographed recently in Los Angeles donning Mexican-style "calavera" makeup and a black dress, in the style of the Catrinas, according to the AP. The article notes that short-skirted and tight-bodiced "muerta" and "sugar-skull" costumes can also be found on sale at some online costume stores in the United States. The Catrina - whose name came from Diego Rivera, the Mexican muralist who stuck Guadalupe Posada's creation in his famous "Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central" in the 1940s - is also a trendy costume for young women in Mexico, where makeup studios and salons provide face-painting services for as much as 1,000 pesos (approximately 80 USD) on Halloween, a holiday which has grown in popularity there.

The AP traces the original Skeleton Lady or Catrina, with her distinctive broad-brimmed hat, to "a satirical engraving that Posada did sometime between 1910 and his death on Jan. 20, 1913". Mercedes Sierra, a visual arts professor at Mexico's National Autonomous University, told the paper that in a country where the majority of the population comes from at least partial indigenous descent, the artist's intention was to mock "people who pretended to be European, but weren't". Nor did his Catrinas have the means to belong to the upper class: these "calaveras", or skeletons, also referred to Mexican slang for someone who was so poor they couldn't eat. "Death is democratic. At the end, regardless of whether you are white, dark, rich or poor, we all end up as skeletons," Posada said at the time, according to the AP.

The illustrator's creations aren't just getting posthumous glory by way of Halloween costumes. In Mexico City, giant replicas of his illustrations and calavera statues have been erected in the Zocalo, or main plaza of the city, for the Day of the Dead celebrations taking place on Thursday. Celebrations for the traditional holiday include setting out offerings on an altar with flowers, food and photos of deceased loved ones.

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