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For other uses, see Calaveras (disambiguation).
Sugar skull used on the Day of the Dead
"Gran calavera eléctrica" (Great electric skull) by José Guadalupe Posada, 1900–1913. Restored reproduction.

A calavera (pronounced: [kalaˈβeɾa], Spanish for "skull") is a representation of human skull made from either sugar or clay, which is used in the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead and the Roman Catholic holiday All Souls Day. Calavera can also refer to any artistic representations of skulls, such as the lithographs of José Guadalupe Posada.[1]

Sugar skulls[edit]

These candies are made from sugar cane, usually in one piece without flavoring (except sometimes vanilla) and adorned with lines of vegetable dye, commonly in green, blue, yellow or red colors. The names of living people are commonly written on the foreheads and can be bought and given as gifts.[2] Some people keep these skulls for few days and then throw them away, others eat them as well.

Other variations of edible calaveras can be made of chocolate.

Clay skulls[edit]

There are clay toy varieties of calaveras, which also resemble the shape of the human skull. Usually these toys are painted in a silver paint color, although it is also commonly found in colors like white, black and red. Beaded eyes of different colors are also commonly added.

Literary calaveras[edit]

Literary calaveras are poems, written for the Day of the Dead but intended to humorously criticize the living.[3][4] Literary calaveras come from the second half of the nineteenth century, when publishing drawings of some and important politicians of the time began to occur in the press. Characters were depicted as skeletons while retaining traits that made them easily identifiable. In addition, these drawings contained writings that told the cause of death of the characters.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ About an José Guadalupe Posada's Calavera Revolucionaria, retrieved 2007-11-13, "Posada created many images of calaveras (skeletons) performing many different human activities. These images were/are used for the Day of The Dead celebrations in Mexico." 
  2. ^ Stanley Brandes (8 January 2007). Skulls to the Living, Bread to the Dead: The Day of the Dead in Mexico and Beyond. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-4051-5248-8. 
  3. ^ Rangel, Sonia. "Calavera poetry reading slated for Nov. 1". Tejano Tribune. Retrieved 2007-11-13. [dead link]
  4. ^ Barradas, Francisco (2007-11-01). "Calaveras and Posadas". El Tecolote (in Spanish). Retrieved 2007-11-13.