Under the harsh dictator Porforio Diaz (1830-1915), many illustrated journals and broadsides nurtured the flourishing of satirical art, despite the threat of retribution by Diaz’s regime. These publications criticized the corrupt government, wealthy aristocracy, and the social abuses of the Roman Church. The most famous cartoons to emerge from this nascent period of the Mexican Revolution (began c1910) were those depicting the calavera (skull figure). The calavera theme dates back to ancient Mexican societies which, in yearly rituals, mocked Death and its supposed hold over humanity. The Spanish conquerors at first tried to quash such ceremonies, but it soon became part of All Saints Day (November 1st), also known as the Day of the Dead.
Little is known about the life of Manuel Manilla. He began producing prints in 1882, making approximately 500 engravings in the service of Antonio Vanegas Arroyo in
In a broader sense, the image of the calavera is fascinating because it is practically a universal image in art of the western world. The subject of Death confronting people from every station appears in the Death Dance cycles of Europe (particularly northern