Día de Los Muertos is a centuries-old tradition in Mexican culture but it’s slowly developed a presence in the U.S. throughout the years and after Coco it’s only grown in popularity. Now Mattel is releasing what they’ve dubbed the “Barbie Día de Muertos,” available starting September 12.
The doll is made up to look like La Calavera Catrina, the iconic symbol of the holiday developed by Mexican illustrator José Guadalupe Posada in 1912. The company announced the doll earlier this week calling it an homage to “to Mexico, its festivities, its symbols, and its people,” according to the EFE Agency (quote has been translated).
#OrfeoFM La nueva edición de la Barbie en homenaje al Día de los Muertos ya genera polémicas 😱
Según la empresa fabricante, la muñeca llegaría para honrar la celebración más tradicional del México. La Barbie estará disponible desde el 12/08 y costaría aprox US$30 👍👎 pic.twitter.com/rGkcnz86RE
— Orfeo FM 98.5 (@OrfeoFM) August 28, 2019
The doll wears a long dress that includes bordados of skulls and colorful flowers, with monarch butterflies trickling from head to toe and a crown of la flor de cempasúchil (the Mexican marigold).
The website Entertainment Earth had the limited edition doll available for preorder for $75 but it’s now sold out. There’s still no word on how much the doll will cost once it’s available, though it’s estimated to be around $30.
Since the announcement, Latinx Twitter has lit up with both excitement and anger, with some folks appreciating the design while others are calling Mattel out for cultural appropriation.
I want this, if someone sees it buy for me. I will send you
— Shirley M Martinez (@armywife153) August 29, 2019
We got Dia de Los Muertos Barbie but also brown girls in cages… 💀😑 https://t.co/mbBvEdnRTl
— Lalo Alcaraz (@laloalcaraz) August 28, 2019
However, this isn’t the first time Barbie encounters controversy. After the 2018 release of the Frida Kahlo doll as part of their Inspiring Women series, people weren’t too happy about Mattel’s portrayal of the Mexican artist. Kahlo’s great-niece Mara de Anda Romeo took the company to court arguing they didn’t have the right to her image but also denounced the look of the doll.
“I would have liked the doll to have traits more like Frida’s, not this doll with light-colored eyes,” Romeo told AFP News Agency.
The look of the Día de Los Muertos doll is decidedly more authentic, though the flamenco-style dress is more Spanish than Mexican. This push for authenticity from Mattel is not just reserved for historical figures but a response to the call for Barbies to better reflect real women overall. They’re also releasing a Lorena Ochoa doll and Rosa Parks doll and they’ve released a curvy Barbie doll.
The Día de Los Muertos doll is another way Latinx culture is slowly entering the mainstream. With acclaimed shows like Vida and One Day at a Time and movies like Coco and Roma winning accolades — it seems even a toy company is looking to capitalize on Latinx culture.
“Her dress is long, embroidered and frilly decorated with flowers and butterflies. The final touch is completed by a crown with the iconic monarch butterflies and the cempasuchil flower to honor, above all, the symbols and offerings of this emblematic Mexican tradition, “the statement continued.
A major company like Mattel selling a doll inspired by Mexican culture is no doubt reflective of the buying power and the presence of Latinx in the U.S., but true progress will give Latinx artisans a platform just as large to better reflect the culture through authentic products.