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“The Mexican…is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favourite toys and his most steadfast love.” Octavio Paz, El laberinto de la soledad, (The Labyrinth of Solitude, 1961).

The Day of the Dead is a comprehensive, visual compilation of all forms of artistic material celebrating the world-famous annual Mexican festival. According to Mexican tradition, one day in the year belongs exclusively to the dead, a day on which they are granted celestial permission to visit friends and relatives on earth. In modern Mexico, festivities for the dead are idiosyncratic. Blending pre-Christian and Christian elements, celebrations for All Saints’ and All Souls’ are unique in the Catholic world. Mexicans are as tormented by the idea of mortality as other nations, yet they honour and receive the departed with good cheer, visual splendour and imagination. Families welcome the returning souls with flowers, incense, candles and special foods. This is not a sombre occasion, but a time of feasting and reunion.

This anthology considers how the Day of the Dead has been celebrated in visual art and culture, from the traditional and iconic illustrations of skulls and singing skeletons by seminal lithographer José Guadalupe Posada to the paper cuts of Aaron Velasco Pacheco and representations of the festival by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and in the folk art of the Linares family.

Curated by Julian Rothenstein and written by Chloë Sayer, an independent scholar and curator, specializing in Mexican art and culture, this is a must-have book for anyone interested in this extraordinary cultural event and its artistic representation.