sugar skull figurine

Sugar Skull

What is the origin of the Sugar Skull?

To understand the origin of the Mexican skulls we have to situate ourselves in Mexico, 19th century when a newspaper called the “El socialista”(The socialist) began to offer a variant of epitaph to the relatives of those who died. These new epitaphs were called “Epitafios alegoricos”(allegorical epitaphs) or “Calaveras literarias”(literary skulls), inspired by a character of the time to which he attributed a hypocritical behaviour (nowadays it is not known if this character was real or fictional). As this character always pretended to possess great wealth and material goods, the new epitaphs were adorned with happy skeletons dressed in very elegant and very cheerful clothes.

The Mexican Skull or Catrina became the emblem with which the lower and middle class pointed criticizing the social class composed of the rich, privileged and wealthy. The caricatures of skeletons were drawn in various scenes typical of the “Alcurnia Mexicana”(Mexican lineage). high-class society parties, with refined drinks, all with gallant bearings, riding on horseback and many others, represented a mirror of their own misery, reflecting the double face of that society, without forgetting the falsity of the politicians. The Mexican skull itself is based on a despicable mockery towards those Mexicans who despite being poor had the desire to be like Europeans.

sugar skulls

Then, in the decade of the 60s, the image of Santa Muerte is revealed, which is the figure of a Christian virgin but in a place of having a human face has a Mexican skull. His first appearances were in the city of Veracruz. The people who adore and venerate this problem of the Santa Muerte are framed in the same lines within the Catholic religion asking for health, love and money. However, Christianity in general, repudiates it, and information about the Catholic Christian religion.

garbancera skull

While it is true that the historical reference that there is of the Mexican skull and the celebration of the Day of the Dead is firmly coined in Mexican books, many consider that custom is brought from Europe. The costumes, the shape of the lines that combine to design a space to celebrate death coincide with the customs that were held at the same time in France, Spain, Italy and other regions of the old continent.

How to Make a Sugar Skull

Would you like to try to make your own Mexican Skull? Below you have a video that it will help you to make a Sugar Skull or Mexican Skull:

Meaning of the sugar skull in the day of the dead

Nowadays, the extended skull symbol in Mexico projects the idea that it is an ancestral tradition, being in fact of recent creation. Not in vain, the Day of the Dead festival holds the award of UNESCO as Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

It can not be denied that it has experienced rapid growth and diversification; Among the numerous samples, we find the popular skulls of alfeñique, skulls of cane sugar with the name of a beloved person, normally alive, written on the forehead.

sugar skulls

The literary skulls have now been transformed into light epitaphs written for family or friends in the form of epitaphs in which, in a comical way, prosperity and happiness are requested. Often called “La huesuda,” “La Parca” or “La calaca” extended terms to refer to death.

There is no doubt that La Catrina is the most recognizable and widespread element of the cult of Mexican death. The figures, make-up, posters, etc. They flood the festivities and their precious aspect has made it a very important symbol of all of Mexico.

In Aguascalientes, the birthplace of José Guadalupe Posada, creator of La Catrina, the Calaveras Festival is held every year. Among the most outstanding events are various exhibitions, costume competitions of Catrina and regional dances.

aguascalientes skull festival

Regardless of its origin, the truth is that the image offered by the skulls in present-day Mexico is unique and has given it the title of “El país que se ríe de la Muerte (the country that laughs at death)”. According to Freud in his “pulsión de Muerte (death drive)” a need to be united with the positive qualities it brings as a way to protect against it; the stillness, the peace, the end of the road.

The Cult of the Skull

The cult of the skulls is not exclusive to Mexico, as it derives from the cult of the deceased, one of the forms of worship that has been repeated the most throughout different periods in practically all the cultures of the planet. Any cosmogony (myth of the creation of the world) elaborated by a social nucleus attached great importance to the figure of death, both as an anthropomorphic personification and in its associated rites of passage.

In Mesoamerica, for more than 3000 years the vast majority of its people venerated the bones of their ancestors as if they were representations of their gods, especially their skulls, which they considered a mode of communication with the other world. But it would be the Mexica or Aztecs who demonstrated greater devotion to the symbol of the skull, crossing the threshold of family worship and transferring it to temples and objects of power.

One of the most shocking examples is the Tzompantli, literally “rows of heads”, consisting of vertical stakes crossed by horizontal ones where the skulls of the enemies were inserted, and then placed on an altar. In the Toltec capital, 60,000 human skulls were found when the Spanish people arrived, an event that marked the end of the local religion and the abolition of these practices.


The cult of the skull remained in a state of lethargy for hundreds of years, except in small populations far from civilization, where it was integrated with Christianity and could survive until the mid-twentieth century, when the myth again spread throughout Mexico.