A thriving tradition of toy making plays a central role in the Oaxacan Day of the Dead. Among such diverse themes as the Nativity, bullfights and carnival rides, the skeleton is by far the most popular image. Mariachi calaveras in the form of puppets made of painted plywood and string are special favorites among small children. Who knows what makes skeleton toys funnier than toys depicting the living? Maybe it's the surprising juxtaposition of the dead doing something lively and spirited that brings a chuckle to the most sober face. Perhaps by making death more approachable through friendly images, like a dancing skeleton playing a guitar, Mexicans begin to lose their fear of death at an early age.
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