A Closer Look at the Día de Los Muertos Barbie
Día de Los Muertos falls close to Halloween and bears some superficial similarities to it: costumes, candy, a spotlight on skeletons.
But the Day of the Dead, observed in Mexico and other Latin American countries and communities each year between October 31 and November 2, isn’t about spooks and scares. Instead, it invites us to face the grave’s inevitability with love and laughter, and in colorful style!
Mattel’s newest Barbie Signature Black Label Doll, the Día de Muertos Barbie, is an enchanting tribute to this cherished celebration.
A Calavera Catrina Doll for the Day of the Dead
The sight of the world’s most famous fashion doll wearing skeleton makeup might startle some people. But anyone who’s celebrated Día de Muertos knows Barbie is simply joining in the holiday’s fun!
Because the Day of the Dead is a time for fondly remembering ancestors and deceased loved ones, many of its traditions are domestic. Families decorate ofrenda (household “altars”) with flowers, photos, candles, and food to welcome dead relatives’ spirits home. They’ll eat sweet pan de Muerto (bread of the dead) and sugar skulls.
But Día de Muertos is also a time for long, loud parades and street parties. Many revelers wear elaborate costumes and paint their faces to look like calaveras (skeletons).
One specific skeleton gets special attention during the Day of the Dead: La Calavera Catrina.
Pioneering Mexican printmaker José Guadalupe Posada created her around 1913 as a skeletal satire of wealthy Mexicans who wanted to look European. Acclaimed painter Diego Rivera included her in his epic mural of Mexican history, Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (1946-47).
She is a popular subject of Mexican art year-round. But La Catrina is the beloved face of Día de Muertos. Her regal bearing reminds us to live with dignity and grace despite our mortality. And her extravagant finery is a summons to enjoy life while it lasts.
After all, as Posada declared through his art, someday we will all be calaveras!
Artful and Affectionate Attention to Detail
Like all Barbie Signature Dolls, the Día de Los Muertos Barbie boasts exquisite, affectionate attention to detail.
As Mattel executive Cristina Lorenzo said (in Spanish) when unveiling it in Mexico City earlier this year, “The doll was designed with a lot of love for tradition because the designer, Javier Meabe, has Mexican roots, and knows the importance of this holiday.”
Barbie wears not only intricate sugar skull makeup but also a crown of orange marigolds and monarch butterflies. Marigolds and monarchs are two dominant Day of the Dead symbols. The monarchs’ migration to Mexico roughly coincides with the holiday. Tradition holds the butterflies are the spirits of the dead. People use the bright, fiercely fragrant marigolds, which also symbolize life’s fleeting beauty, to guide those spirits home.
Barbie’s Día de Muertos full-length, ruffled black dress is delicately embroidered with red and yellow flowers on green vines. Printed flowers, sugar skulls, and butterflies adorn its lower outer layer, as do several small plastic butterflies; a sheer, lace-trimmed layer is underneath. Meabe told the New York Times he based Barbie’s dress on dresses his mother wore.
If you’re giving this Day of the Dead Barbie as a gift, you may not want to wrap it! An embossed portrait of Barbie’s made-up face adorns its front. Its sides bear printed images of sugar skulls and candles. The packaging is its own work of art.
And if you’re keeping the Día de Muertos doll for your own collection – perhaps to complement the two other special edition Mexican Barbie dolls, inspired by artist Frida Kahlo and golfer Lorena Ochoa – you’ll find a display stand inside, along with a Certificate of Authenticity.
A Beautiful Collectible for a Major World Holiday
The Día de Muertos Barbie has made some people, like late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert, laugh. (He joked about it during his September 16 broadcast.) It offends others, who see it as crass cultural appropriation.
For his part, Javier Meabe told the Times he holds the Day of the Dead extremely dear. “I know how important it is,” he said, “to honor and respect family and friends that are no longer with us.”
This doll is no casual plaything. It’s a beautiful piece for serious collectors and a rich representation of one of the world’s most culturally significant celebrations.
Take a look at the Día de Muertos Barbie for yourself, and tell us what you think in the comments below!