Far from humorless, the impervious resignation of the Mexican people to the inevitability of death arose from a blend of the indigenous heritage of war and human sacrifice with the dance of death and memento mori traditions of Spain. The word "calavera" means skull and has evolved to designate the animated skeletons associated with the November 2nd celebrations of the "Día de la Muerte" (Day of the Dead or All Soul's Day). In the minds of the people, the dearly departed are not excluded from the world of the living-they are not really absent, they are close by.
Vanegas Arroyo and Posada used the "calaveras" to mock human existence and express the tragic destiny of man. The skeletons portrayed famous heroes, politicians, revolutionary leaders, and the common person -- the water-carriers, street sweepers, and vendors. They formed a fleshless depiction of Mexican society -- a sort of x-ray of the collective soul of the people.