Wednesday, November 10, 2010


One of the most fun Día de los Muertos traditions is writing calaveras, or satirical rhyming poems describing the death of a still living person. Calaveras are often written for political figures and published in newspapers and magazines (in the past, they were printed on little sheets of paper and distributed by the wind). Or, they are written on a more personal level for friends and colleagues. Calaveras may appear to be making fun of the target person (and indeed, the best ones do), but it is all in the spirit of making fun of Death itself.

The word "calavera" literally means "skull", which obviously comes to symbolize Death. And there are many forms of referring to Death personified in Mexico: "la Huesuda", "la Parca", "la Calaca", and "la Catrina". The image of death most often is the form of a skeleton woman, although it also sometimes looks more like we imagine the "Grim Reeper".

To join in the festive spirit during my stay in Oaxaca, I decided to make it my mission to write calaveras for as many friends as possible, and challenged people to write them for me. I have created this blog as a forum to publish the results. In the posts, you will find the calaveras I wrote, followed or preceded by the ones that person wrote for me. I apologize to the non-Spanish-speakers that there are no translations (yet) in English, but translations are time-consuming and difficult. I am considering posting English translations later as comments on the posts. For now, I've only posted them in the original Spanish. Enjoy!

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