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Iconography in Mexico's Day of the Dead: Origins and Meaning


This article analyzes the origin and meaning of artistic representations of death-principally skulls and skeletons-in Mexico's Day of the Dead. It challenges stereotypes of the death-obsessed Mexican by tracing mortuary imagery in the Day of the Dead to Two separate artistic developments, the first deriving from religious and demographic imperatives of colonial times, the second from nineteenth-century politics and journalism. Now generally perceived as belonging to a single, undifferentiated iconographic tradition, cranial and skeletal images of death have become virtually synonymous with Mexico itself.

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