“La Calavera Catrina” gives southern Arizona a unique way to honor Hispanic Heritage Month

Published: Oct. 3, 2023 at 10:45 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - As a way to observe the rich Hispanic history and culture, “The Tucson Botanical Gardens” is showcasing its “La Calavera Catrina” exhibit giving people in southern Arizona a chance to celebrate.

Patricia DeZor is a third-generation Arizonan. She said seeing the tall and vibrant Catrinas was a special moment for her.

“To come and see these so beautifully crafted here in the garden and celebrate this part of our culture in a way that’s unique specifically to Tucson,” DoZer said.

DeZor believes this is a great way for the community to honor and recognize the importance of Hispanic Heritage Month. She adds embracing Latin culture is important, especially in Tucson.

“It’s part of Arizona. You can’t have it and not be Arizona,” DeZor said. “It’s integral to what we do here. Whether we are native or not.”

Michelle Conklin, the Executive Director at Tucson Botanical Gardens said the Catrinas travel all across the country and came to Tucson just in time to honor Hispanic Heritage Month.

The seven Catrinas are placed throughout the Bario Garden. They are all made of paper mache and stand eight feet tall. According to Conklin, they all reflect notable Mexican women.

The skeletons are a part of the Mexican-American culture and go back many, many years,” Conklin said. “These particular sculptures highlight some impressive, cultural figures of Mexico.”

Ricardo Soltero, the artist behind the work, is both a sculptor and costume designer. He has made hundreds of Catrinas for festivals and celebrations around the world.

Soltero tells 13 News, “Death and Life, Joy and Lament, unit in the celebration of the dead,” is the message behind his artwork.

Painter, Frida Kahlo, and Actress Marìa Felìx are just two Mexican legends featured in the exhibit.

“These figures are really all part of the Day of the Dead,” Conklin said.

According to DoZer, the exhibit gives people a unique way to learn the history of women and teach future generations. This is something she believes is more important now than ever.

“It’s getting me thinking because this year we experienced a death in my family,” Dozer said. “This is how I help teach my children and my grandchildren about death and dying.”

DeZor believes this gives loved ones the chance to look at death differently, not as sadness but a colorful celebration of life.

“To me, it’s just a more compassionate way to respect and honor that part of life. It’s the last part of life. We are all going to experience it,” DoZer said. “This is just beautiful to be compassionate about that, this attracts me to the culture and observe the day.”

Even though Dìa De Los Muertos isn’t celebrated until November and is not part of Hispanic Heritage Month, Dezor said the rich history and culture should be embraced yearly since our loved ones are always with us.

“I really do believe when we are out there dancing to the music and the flowers that they are there with us,” DoZer said. “Like when we feel the breeze across our bodies.”

“La Calavera Catrina” will be featured at Tucson Botanical Gardens until the end of the year. Organizers encourage everyone to come and see the exhibit for themselves and learn more about the legendary figures.

Tucson Botanical Gardens is open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Catrinas will leave the gardens on December 31, 2023.

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