"She is kind of a perfect example of integrating both traditions and not seeing any contradiction or problems with that," Chesnut said. He said more and more U.S. families, not only of Mexican descent, are setting up altars and celebrating Day of the Dead.
The Catrina went through a couple of incarnations before becoming a scary sex symbol.
Posada created her to poke fun at "people who pretended to be European, but weren't," said Mercedes Sierra, a visual arts professor at Mexico's National Autonomous University.
Most Mexicans are of Indian descent, but given long-standing racism, many tried to look European with their clothing or makeup. So Posada created the elegantly dressed skeleton — "skeleton" being Mexican slang for someone so poor they couldn't eat.
Even though he mocked people with pretentions, Posada said that drawing her as a skeleton was also a way to reject social stratification.
"Death is democratic. At the end, regardless of whether you are white, dark, rich or poor, we all end up as skeletons," Posada said at the time.
In the mid-1940s, Mexican artist Diego Rivera put Posada and the Skeleton Lady in the central position of his mural "Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central," which depicted iconic figures from Mexican arts and history.
It was Rivera who gave the figure the name "Catrina," Sierra said.
Adriana Gomez Licon on Twitter: http://twitter.com/agomezlicon