Skulls Masks Used to Protest Against Mexican Drug Trade.

13/8/12 – Skull Masks used to Honour those who had died from Illegal Drug Trade?

While searching through the internet, I discovered an article by John Burnett & Marisa Penaloza from the NPR Radio Station who investigates the protest in Mexico due to “drug related violence”. Burnett & Penaloza claim that thousands of people were brutally murdered or injured from the infamous ‘drug trade’ in Mexico.

According to Burnett & Penaloza “authorities discovered nine tortured bodies hanging from an overpass, and 14 human heads left in a jumbo ice chest in front of Nuevo Laredo City Hall” (Burnett, NPR Radio, 2012,

In November 2011, Mexicans were seen wearing the skull as a mask that expressed the opposition to the violent drug trade in Mexico. Some of the masks are adorned with decorative designs or illustrations that may reflect Mexico’s cultural and spiritual association with the dead.

Regina M Marchi claims that the skull within the Mexican culture often features humorous characteristics, which provides a positive perspective of death. In this case, are the skull masks used to honour the deceased? Do these vibrant decorations allow others to come to terms with dead in a positive manner?

Antoni Cadafalch explains that during the Spanish Invasion, millions had died from ‘disease’ and those who were able to survive had come to terms with death through everyday activities and celebrations.

Cadafalch quotes “One can see how there would be a strong desire to have extensive rituals where the border between life and death was somewhat blurred, and where the idea of having days for the dead to revisit and hear funny stories with entreaties to eat bread and sweets as though they were still alive, would have been a huge comfort” (Cadafalch, 2011 p.10)

In relation to Burnett’s article, has the skull been used as a political statement? One may argue that the skull is used to remember those who had died from the ‘drug cartels’ in an artistic or expressive manner.

According to Marchi the skull has become an iconic representation of Mexico’s heritage. Marchi quotes “The most prominent symbol of Mexico’s Day of the Dead is the calavera or the skull – often made from papier-mache, clay, wood, plastic, metal or cutout tissue paper” (Marchi 2009 p.23)

The skull masks may demonstrate the damage or the destruction that has been caused within the city of Mexico. The masks may resonate a union between the living and the deceased through the unique or illustrative representation of the skull (DeMello, 2012 p.58-60) One may argue creativity is used for cultural, historical and political expression especially through the masks that demonstrates the public’s disagreement with the ongoing violence within the country.

Burnett, John & Penaloza, Marisa,”Mexican Want New Approach To Bloody Drug War”, NPR Radio Station, June 8 2012, (Accessed 13/8/12)

Marchi, Regina.M. The Day of the Dead in the USA: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural phenomenon.  New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2009

Cadafalch, Antoni. The Day of the Dead: El Dia De Los Muertos.  London: Koreno Books, 2011

DeMello, Margo. Faces around the World: A Cultural Encyclopedia of the Human Face.  California ABC – CLIO, LLC, 2012.

Image Citation:–declaraciones-y-cartas-abiertas.html

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