Stepping Out With Catrina


Say hello to Catrina, poster child for Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. In much of Latin America, and particularly Mexico, Catrina will be making an appearance today.

She’s wearing her finest to pay her respects to those who’ve passed on, and because the dead would be insulted by mourning and sadness, it’s a perfect opportunity to eat, drink, and be merry.

So on this Day of the Dead, take some time to think of lost loved ones, and follow Catrina’s advice: celebrate the life that you had together.

Happy Trails and RIP,
James & Terri

P.S. Our favorite piece of Mexican pottery is the Day of The Dead Wedding Couple. This is one of the most hilarious and delightful pieces of art that we’ve seen in forever.


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

31 thoughts

  1. I love the way Mexican culture looks at death. There’s a song by Brett Dennen called “Dancing at a Funeral” that has the same outlook. Catrina looks very festive. 🙂

  2. Dear James & Terri,

    This is the reason why I am addicted to this community, A place where we all can meet and share different flavors civilizations around the world 🙂

    Living on the opposite side of the globe, I could see the images and happenings in Mexico and learn about the people and the age old civilizations there…

    I am so glad to follow follow Catrina’s advice: celebrate the life ….

    Thank you so much for sharing and have a beautiful day ahead 🙂

    1. I feel the same way Sreejith. The internet and the blogging community provide entertainment and an opportunity to learn every day. Like Mexico, India is another country that has an incredibly long tradition of festive and colorful traditions, and a history of celebrating life. ~James

      1. You are absolutely right, James 🙂

        It’s festival time in India with the festival of light, ‘Diwali’ just around the corner 🙂

        Have a beautiful day 🙂

  3. Day of the Dead festivities are in full swing here in Oaxaca, and well dressed Catrinas are smiling at us from balconies, store fronts, restaurants…and as you say, they are always happy!

    1. Marilyn, it must be exciting to actually be in Mexico for all the festivities. We missed the actual holiday, but we really enjoyed the art. Morelia had an incredible collection of local DOD art, and we understand that they really get into the spirit in that area. ~James

  4. As an ex-Spanish teacher, I have spent some time with Catrina! (There’s even an early-to-intermediate novel called La Catrina that the Spanish students read.) It’s funny – you know how much I love Mexico from some recent posts, but the Day of the Dead figures kind of creep me out! I like the IDEA behind the day, but the skeleton figures themselves are scary!

    1. I did a bit of online research about Catrina, and the story is interesting Lexie. Apparently, a cartoonist and illustrator came up with La Catrina in the early 20th Century. She must have met some sort of psychological need given how popular the tradition has gotten in Mexico. After a lifetime of death traditions in the US, it does take a bit of an adjustment. ~James

    1. I totally agree Susan. I love all this colorful art, and I particularly like the concept of celebration of life. Traditional funerals in New Orleans have a similar idea of respect and celebration. ~James

  5. I adore the thought of celebrating the life you had with your lost loved ones instead of crying and feeling sad. So beautiful!

    1. Thanks for the comment Lael and for dropping by the blog. It’s impossible to avoid the sadness, but with time, the idea of celebrating life should get easier-particularly when eveyone around you is doing the same thing. ~James

    1. Peggy, the best DOD art we saw was in the Central Highlands of Mexico. The artists around Morelia raised intricate clay art to a new level. There’s loads of symbolism in the art – most that I don’t understand. But it’s easy to just appreciate the art. ~James

  6. We started our travels in the Yucatan area and were fortunate enough to be there in the fall to enjoy the Day of the Dead traditions and the many Catrinas on display, big and small, male and female, ghoulish and humorous. I think my favorite memory is of walking into the Playa del Carmen Walmart and seeing a life-size Catrina skeleton with a huge grin baked of bread and assembled on the table near the other traditional baked goods! Anita

    1. A life-size bread Catrina must have been a hoot Anita. One of the things I enjoy most about the holiday and art is the sense of humor. Death and funerals are serious business no doubt, but it’s refreshing to see another approach and way to handle it. ~James

    1. Curt you’ll appreciate that in the early 20th Century when a cartoonist drew Catrina she was called “La Calavera Catrina” that roughly translates to the “Elegant Skull” – so she will be dancing bones. ~James

  7. I remember that ‘couple’. Your post made me much more observant when traveling to be on the watch for such displays. On a restaurant wall in Vegas there was an entire wall of brightly coloured skulls. Saving that for a post one day. 🙂

    1. I’m looking forward to that post Sue. I think that Vegas is the world capital of kitsch, camp and attention-grabbing art. Usually, in Vegas it’s not necessary to be too observant. The art is in your face, and that’s a big part of the fun. ~James

  8. Given the fact death is an inescapable part of life, I love the idea of celebrating one’s life instead. I understand the need for mourning/sadness, but I’d never want anyone crying over my coffin! Actually, they won’t be. I plan to be cremated, mixed with cement and dumped into the Gulf of Mexico to become a fish reef. Perhaps someone could throw Catrina in with me and we could both dance.

    1. Well said Laura, well said. We share your feelings about cremation but being part of a reef takes it to a whole new level. I always thought that it would be a good idea to give each of the attendees at my memorial an envelop full of my ashes, to take home and scatter wherever they thought appropriate (and hopefully not just flush them down the toilet 🙂 ) ~James

    1. Lynn, this can be a morbid topic with family and friends, but whenever there’s a conversation, I casually let people know how I want it to be. There should be a memorial service for the traditionalists, and then an after-party for the others. And as I said to Laura: I always thought that it would be a good idea to give each of the attendees at my memorial an envelop full of my ashes, to take home and scatter wherever they think appropriate. ~James

      1. You are so right James, this conversation can be very difficult, particularly when death seems imminent. I think it’s so important to discuss ones wishes with their family, at a time when emotions are not full of devastation & loss. Kudos to you for slipping it in when you have the chance.

        I love the idea of presenting attendees with envelops of your ashes, in fact, I may have to steal that one. Thinking of those who might attend my said service, I would love to be a fly on the wall to see people’s reactions. I am sure there would be those thinking, “cool”, while others would be thinking “WTF am I supposed to do with these”????

  9. I just celebrated Dia de los Muertos with a couple of girlfriends. We set up an altar at dusk with candles, incense, photos, and a drumming circle, honoring friends and family who have passed. It was a beautifully moving experience.

    1. There’s nothing like a bunch of gringas gone native LuAnn. And what a fun-sounding affair. Memorial day can’t hold a candle (no pun intended) to Dia de los Muertos. ~James

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