José Guadalupe Posada (1851–1913) was a Mexican printmaker who used calavera illustrations to make political satires and cultural critiques. He was particularly influential in the role of printmaking as a medium of social and political engagement. His popular satire was printed in inexpensive newspapers and periodicals, and was accessible to the lower classes. His prolific illustrations would later earn him the title of “printmaker to the Mexican people.” Using his calavera to emphasize mortality, Posada was able to illustrate the beliefs and daily lifestyles of popular groups, as well as satirize many affecting issues of the time, such as the abuses of government and the exploitation of the common people. Later in life, his tireless printmaking played a crucial role in government elections. It is estimated that Posada produced more than 20,000 images in his career, but Posada himself remained unknown. He died penniless and was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1920, 7 years after his death, his work began to be recognised on a national and international level – after being championed by the French ex-patriot artist Jean Charlot and trumpeted by Diego Rivera. Charlot described Posada as “printmaker to the Mexican people,” and mural artists such as Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, profoundly influenced by the anti-bourgeois illustrations, promoted and repopularized Posada’s ideas. 100 years later, Posada’s use of the press to give social and political voice to the people continues to be both influential and relevant. Broadside shows a male skeleton dressed in a charro outfit wielding a machete in a graveyard, apparently in the process of creating more skeletons–a crowd of skeletons surround him and skulls lie at his feet. The text block is decorated with four small skulls. (1910) – SourceBroadside showing a large skeleton hypnotizing a group of skulls and a sitting skeleton; an electric car with skeletons riding in it is in the background. The text is a calavera in verse conveying the fascination with the modern wonder of electricity as used in Mexico City’s trolleys (1907) – Source“The calavera of the morbid cholera” – a broadside showing a man with the body of a snake in the center of a group of skulls, representing the disease cholera, his arms are outstretched and tongue out, flying insects surround him. The skulls that surround him are depicted with worldy objects. The image is accompanied by a sarcastic and ironic ballad describing how cholera has afflicted the various social classes of Mexican society. Death kills everyone, regardless of the their place in society (1910) – Source“This is Don Quixote the first, the giant calavera without equal” – broadside depicting a calavera of Don Quixote riding an equally skeletal horse. A second image below that of Don Quixote shows calaveras outside a cemetery pursuing a group of young men and women (ca.1910-13)- Source“The calavera of popular editor Antonio Vanegas Arroyo” – broadside showing the skeleton of publisher Antonio Vanegas Arroyo (who published many of Posada’ Calaveros) dressed in a bowler hat, dark glasses and a suit and sporting a long beard and mustache, standing in his print shop. Small skeletons work at aspects of publishing at his feet: printing, engraving, and proofreading (1917) – Source“Because of the end of the world everyone will certainly now become calaveras; farewell to all the living, this is for real” – detail from a broadside showing skeletons in pandemonium because of cataclysmic natural events around them. The text, a calavera in verse (epitaph), predicts an apocalypse as the year 1899 ends (1899) – Source“From this famous hippodrome on the racetrack, not even a single journalist is missing. Death is inexorable and doesn’t even respect those that you see here on bicycle” – broadside showing showing calaveras bicycling, with identifying labels, ‘Voz de México,’ ‘Patria,’ ‘Universal,’ ‘Tiempo,’ ‘Partido Liberal,’ ‘Gil Blas,’ names of popular newspapers, and ‘Siglo XIX,’ and ‘Siglo XX.’ They trample additional calaveras, labeled ‘Razalatin’ and ‘Quijote.’ (ca.1898-1902) – Source“Calaveras from the heap, number 2” – broadside showing the skeleton of a drunken peon wearing a sombrero, serape, and sandals, holding a bottle of Aguardiente de Parras, a reference to Madero’s family’s maguey plantation and distillery operation. The distinctive mustache and beard further identify the calavera as Madero (1910) – Source“The artistic purgatory, where the calaveras of artists and craftsmen lie” – broadside showing the second level of hell, in which the calaveras of artists and artisans hold objects relating to their profession, including musical instruments, a palette, and paper. Below the main image, the text block consists of eight skulls with objects relating to their profession and short verses that provide attributes (ca.1890-1910) – Source“Coyotes (conmen) and waitress calaveras” – broadside showing a cat, with a skull for a face, standing on its hind legs holding two skulls. The text, in calavera verse, conveys how waitresses are out to get customers once they are drunk, and also how conmen go for any man’s money (1919) – Source La Calavera Catrina Among Posada’s most famous prints was La Calavera Catrina, now associated with Mexico’s Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead. At the time of publication, Catrina was a social/political statement against Mexican women who tried to erase their indigenous heritage by wearing French styled clothes and makeup to appear more white. Years later, Catrina’s eye sockets would be annually painted onto the faces of Mexican people celebrating Día de Muertos, with the intricate painted skull designs, and bright marigolds. National Geographic Amazon 100 years after her conception, Posada’s La Calavera Catrina has transformed first from a satire against gentrification, then into a colorful celebration of Mexican culture, and is now mass produced to offer an infusion of cultural texture to white ladies like me.