Mexican skeleton made of papier mâché
Like many Latin American customs, cartonería has roots in European colonialism and Catholicism. But Mexico's paper works burst with every-day-is-a-fiesta whimsy (lifesize skeletons with sly grins) and dark, timely humor. Mexicans didn’t invent papier-mâché. Neither did the French, who gave it its name, which translates as “chewed paper.” The earliest known pieces crafted from wood pulp and glue come from the Han Dynasty in China (c. 202 B.C.-220 A.D.)
Papier-mâché spread to Europe during the 16th through 18th centuries and cartonería most likely arrived to Mexico during the colonial era.
Día de los Muertos—marked each year from October 31 to November 2—is the liveliest time of year for Mexico’s papier-mâché makers. They’re slammed stringing together life-size skeletons, painting filigrees on skull masks, and applying shellac to faux loaves of bread and fruit to use as symbolic offerings on ofrendas to the dead.