Skip to Main Content

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

This guide provides information and resources about the Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, holiday.

Digital Toolbox

Things to Do

Group of white sugar skulls decorated with bright colors.

Gloria G. Ruiz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


The literary calaveras are short, rhyming poems, usually composed of four to twelves lines whose verse mocks the victim’s perceived weaknesses. These poems originated with printmaker and artist José Guadalupe Posada, who published intricately-designed skeleton illustrations. Each skull was designed in the likeness of a famous politician or prominent person and was accompanied by a satirical poem. The poems included jokes about subjects’ character, their limited abilities in death, and the powers and leisure activities they can no longer enjoy.

How to write literary calaveras for Día de Muertos

1. Pick someone—or something—to eulogize. 

Important note: They should not actually be dead. You can write about a politician or famous person or your best friend or an object on your desk. 

Here’s an example by Hallmark Writer Dan T.:

El Mariachi

In las plazas grandes and cozy small bars,
Mariachis are famous for playing guitars.
The most hateful critic finds himself compliant
When hearing guitars which are really quite giant.
“Bigger is better!” the musicians say.
So mas y mas grow the guitars that they play.
And that’s where they found Juan, a guitar big and wide
Fell on him and crushed him, and that’s how he died.

2. Introduce the subject of your calavera poem. 

Why will the subject die? Are they behaving badly? Making poor choices? Minding their own business?

Hallmark Writer Keely C. lets us know right from the start that things are not going well for her subject.

Death of Manners

She met her cruel end at a dinner with “friends.”
Not one of them RSVP’d.
She felt all alone as they stared at their phones
and double-dipped chips out of greed.
Loud calls were taken, politeness forsaken.
Their language was not safe for work.
She felt ill at ease when not one uttered “Please.”
In short, they were all being jerks.
There was fingernail clipping and eye-contact-skipping.
With mouths full, the company talked.
No “thank-you” was spoken, and Manners, heartbroken,
keeled over and croaked from pure shock!

3. Decide how they meet La Muerte.  

How will Death arrive in this literary calavera? Will it be the result of their hobby or occupation? Their personality? Or will they perish as the result of a really bad pun, as in this example by another Hallmark writer?


Down at the cantina,
they’re shedding big tears—
in mourning because
someone killed a few beers.

From Hallmark: How to write literary calaveras for Día de Muertos