The Puebla city government came under criticism after the annual Day of the Dead altar it installed Tuesday at the city’s municipal headquarters featured Catrina skeletons in medical scrubs in a hospital scene with a “patient” hooked up to a ventilator.
Circulated photos of the altar online unleashed accusations that the display — which seems to have been meant as an acknowledgment of Covid-19 victims or as homage to medical personnel — was trivializing the pandemic and that Puebla Mayor Claudia Rivera Vivanco had been insensitive to approve it.
By the next day, the city government had hastily modified the altar. The new version featured fewer Catrinas, though some were still wearing surgical caps, white coats and masks. The hospital scene and the Covid patients were gone, however, in favor of skeletons staged in a more typical Day of the Dead photographic-style pose.
Nevertheless, the damage had already been done. Commenters online and even the Reforma newspaper quickly dubbed the original version “the altar of terror.”
Puebla General Secretary Liza Aceves denied yesterday that Mayor Rivera had approved the original altar and that it had ever been official at all. She termed it merely a “proposed” altar that was ultimately rejected.
In fact, Aceves claimed, Mayor Rivera had actively rejected the original altar because she felt it emphasized fear of the coronavirus.
The updated scene, she said, emphasized what the administration felt was a hopeful and appropriate theme of “family fortitude,” one meant to inspire hope in Puebla’s population that the city would exit safely from the pandemic.