Each year Hotel Matilda—an award-winning boutique hotel in Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende—throws a Day of the Dead dinner called Cena Negra. Earlier this month, and for the first time, the hotel decided to do something different: bring the Cena Negra dinner to the Big Apple. Taking place in New York City’s Financial District’s Grand Banquet Hall, Visit Mexico and Casa Dragones co-hosted the event alongside the renowned hotel.
On the calendar in early November, Day of the Dead (Día de las Muertos) is a Mexican holiday where families congregate to honor and remember their late loved ones. Mexican families set up candlelit altars, usually tabled with the deceased’s pictures and favorite foods. One of Day of the Dead’s most famous symbols is the skull, known in Spanish as “Calavera.”
Cena Negra’s hosts invited Mexican artist Alonso Cartu to collaborate. Currently living in New York City, Alonso’s talents led him to create an assemblage of Calaveras and a large Catrina—the holiday’s signature towering female skeleton—who, in this case, served as the party’s greeter.
Consisting of ceramic and hand-painted gold, Alonso describes his collection of Calaveras as a “contemporary interpretation,” inspired by his fascination with Mesoamerican art and Aztec culture, a life-changing trip to Japan that resulted in a new appreciation for minimalistic craft, as well as current-day Mexico. Many of the skulls have Mickey Mouse ears attached to them, his signature. “When I was a child living in Mexico, I found American culture to be aspirational, always asking my parents to take me to Disneyland,” he says. “The conjoining of Mickey Mouse and the Calaveras is a merge between Mexican and American culture.”
Just as stunning as the Calaveras, the grand Catrina he created for the party caught everyone’s attention. Inspirations for this piece stem from his love for New York City, made known through the figure’s shiny black sequence; as well as his deep adoration for Mexico, tributed through the array of chromatic flowers adorning the Catrina’s lanky physique.
To see more of Alonso’s art, head to his Instagram, @A_Cartu.