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Catrina statue symbolizing Day of the Dead brings Mexican art, cultural education to Magnificent Mile

Catrina statue symbolizing Day of the Dead mounted on Magnificent Mile
Catrina statue symbolizing Day of the Dead mounted on Magnificent Mile 02:27

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A statue along the Magnificent Mile is turning heads – and it has an educational component to it in addition to being a beautiful piece of art.

As CBS 2's Marybel González reported Wednesday night, it is difficult to miss the Catrina – a symbol of the Day of the Dead – on Michigan Avenue at Ohio Street. She was brought to her post by local residents with the help of the Mexican Consulate.

The consulate wanted to share a little bit of their culture with everyone who stops by the Mag Mile.

"The Catrina statue is 10 feet tall, and it's made of fiberglass – with a metal skeleton inside," said Gabriel Neely-Streit, co-owner of Colores Mexicanos at 605 N. Michigan Ave., outside of which the statue was mounted.

The elegantly-dressed skeleton towers over people on Michigan Avenue, but her purpose is not to scare them away.

"It's a representation of our culture and of all the people Mexican people here in the city," said Erika Espinosa, co-owner of Colores Mexicanos. "We are a big population of Mexicans - more than 1 million."

The purpose of the statue is to teach people about Mexican art, culture, and the Day of the Dead tradition.

"In this season, it's very important, because it's when we remember our beloved ones who passed – and everybody can celebrate," Espinosa said.


La Catrina is an iconic symbol of this festivity. The version of it now on display was hand-painted and carved by artist José Luis Martinez Pasillas in the Mexican state of Aguascalientes – specifically for the city of Chicago.

The statue traveled nearly 2,000 miles by land, and was installed in front of Neely-Streit and Espinoza's Mexican gift shop.

"We feel like it's our mission as a store to show the finest in Mexican art and culture in downtown Chicago to the world, because Michigan Avenue has the eyes of the world on it," Neely-Streit said.

It was the idea of Bolingbrook residents Jesus Serna and Margarita Morelos to bring the statue to the city.

"It's a beautiful, elegant lady in the way that we Mexicans see death," Morelos said. "So that's a way to remember to enjoy life and also embrace mortality."

They commissioned the artist in Mexico to create the statue – a dream of theirs years in the making – to teach others about their heritage and what Day of the Dead means to them.

"I hope that people enjoy it – and that's an honor," said Serna.

"Take pictures!" added Morelos.

And people have been stopping by and doing so all day.

The statue will be up through November, and the plan is for her to stay in the Chicago area as part of a festival the Bolingbrook couple is planning for next year.

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