how to make a literary calaverita to celebrate the Day of the Dead?

Did you know that literary skulls are one of the most important traditions in Mexico? Would you like to know how to make a literary skull using humor and love in your verses?

In this article we will tell you how to make a literary calaverita, we will give you all the necessary tools to make short, beautiful, long and funny literary calaveritas so you can write a great humorous poem and give it as a gift to whoever you want (or publish it in your social networks or in your blog).

But first… do you know the 5 rules of creative writing? These rules will help you create your literary calaveritas in less time.

let’s start!

what is a literary calaverita?

A literary calaverita is an important part of Mexican traditions, especially around the time of the Day of the Dead.

Literary calaveritas are traditional compositions that are easy to make and are written in verse and rhyme. They usually use a mischievous, funny and ironic tone to talk about a person who may be alive or deceased.

These popular poems with humorous and satirical sense, create imaginary situations, where a friend or a character, meets “death” and this takes him to another world. That is why, almost always, in the definition and personalization of the literary calaveritas are involved political or celebrity characters.

poema calaverita literariaImage:

who invented the idea of creating literary calaveritas?

The idea of creating literary skulls emerged since the nineteenth century and, at the beginning, they are called “panteones”; but there are some sources, which indicate that its origin began in the colonial era of the eighteenth century.

It is said that the literary calaveritas were invented when disgruntled Creoles wrote pasquines (anonymous writing of satirical content), in the form of an epitaph (text that honors a deceased person and is written on a tombstone), making known their disagreement with the government and local authorities. They were banned for many years (for obvious reasons); however, it managed to survive to this day.

tradicion calaveritas literariasImage: Unsplash

how to make a literary calaverita?

If you want to learn how to make a literary calaverita, then, we will start by telling you what are its main characteristics and what is its structure.

do you practice any kind of creative writing? If you know what your narrative is, it will be much easier to learn how to write beautiful literary calaveritas.

Characteristics of a literary calaverita

As we have already mentioned above, in the literary calaveritas, we allude to the characteristics of the person to whom we dedicate this poem. You can use physical references of your character, his or her profession, tastes or interests.

There are also short literary calaveritas that mention a particular event, personalizing it and giving it the satirical touch that characterizes these Mexican poems.

Nowadays, literary calaveritas are written to be given to different friends or family members. If you have no idea to whom to give a literary calaverita or in what context to create one, here are some suggestions:

Literary skulls for children
Feminist literary skulls for a friend.
Literary skulls for teachers.
Literary skulls for your students at school.
Literary skulls for a friend who is sad.
Literary skulls with women’s names
Literary skulls with children’s names

So, what does a literary calaverita look like? this is a summary of its main characteristics:

Their verses are irreverent and are written as epitaphs portraying people as if they were dead.
They usually channel feelings that would be difficult to express in another context.
Literary calaveritas are usually accompanied by images.
They use assonant and consonant rhymes.
They often use mockery and an ironic tone to express dissatisfaction with a person’s attitudes or actions.

calaverita literaria ejemploImage: Radio Fórmula México

what is a literary calaverita for children?

did you know that Mexican children are the ones who make the most literary calaveritas? in elementary school or preschool, it is a very typical thing to do on the Day of the Dead.

Teachers suggest their students to invest time in creative writing by making literary calaveritas to dedicate to their relatives (mom, dad, siblings or grandparents).

Usually, children’s literary calaveritas are short and fun so that children can write them easily and in a short time. These characters can help you create your next children’s literary calaverita.

Structure of a literary calaverita

what is the structure of a literary calaverita? Well, we tell you that the parts of a literary calaverita are very particular, although the theme is totally free (you can write about whatever you want), there are certain elements that must be maintained in the composition.

how to make a literary calaverita following the basic structure?

Octosyllabic verses: there is no formal metric; but the most common format to write your first literary calaveritas is througheight-syllable verses. The stanzas are usually four lines or in some cases ten.

Consonant rhymes: basically there are two types: A, B, B, A. What does this mean? it is very easy! The last words of the first and last lines must sound the same or very similar, as well as the rhymes in the middle. And, in the structure of literary calaveritas, A, B, A, B, the first and third lines should rhyme, as should the second and fourth.

Mention of death: the main purpose of making literary calaveritas is to talk about how and why death took a person (so it must appear in the text).

Characteristics of the person to whom it is dedicated: remember that the argument in literary calaveritas is always that death takes someone away, so you should always include the most outstanding characteristics of the person.

Humor: literary calaveritas usually mix the pain of death with humor, love, sweetness and affection. So these ingredients are essential in your writing, it is like writing the plot of a story with different emotions.

An ending that surprises: it is important to end the poetic verse with a totally unexpected ending. That is, you can start with the characteristics of the person and lead the story to an ending that leaves everyone with their mouths open.

frida perrita calaverita literaria
Image: Verne

how do you write a literary calaverita?

So, how do you write a literary calaverita? Let’s summarize the most important points so you can write your first calaverita.

Composition: always highlight in the verses the person as if he/she were dead. Literary calaveritas are accompanied by drawings or decorated around the poem.

It is usually an epigram: it means that it is a short poetic composition that expresses a festive or satirical thought in a creative and witty way.

The common thread or storytelling: the story of a character, political, social or cultural fact will always be told in the literary calaveritas.

Form of writing: it should be written in a funny and creative way about the people portrayed and, remember, allude to death in a satirical way. Literary skulls should be written in four-line stanzas called quatrains.

Metrics: the verses must have a constant metric, being the most usual, in the literary calaveritas, those that use eight-syllable verses (octosyllables)

despacito poema calaverita literaria
Image: Verne

how to make a creative literary calaverita?

A good tip on how to make a creative literary calaverita is to sing the syllables. You don’t need to write the verses first, you can start by singing them or saying them out loud. Try singing them in popular keys to see if they really rhyme.

Tips for making a creative literary calaverita

Apply these tips to make a creative literary calaverita and give it as a gift to someone special.

Literary calaverita with 4 stanzas and octosyllabic verses. As we mentioned before, there is no formal metric; however, this is the most common metric. In the stanzas always consider using 4 lines of verse.

Always rhyme your words. Consonant rhymes will give joy and fun to your literary calaverita. Try to always rhyme the last words of the first and last lines.

Write with affection and humor. Using death and love is a very common drama in Mexico. And if you want to write your literary calaverita in true Mexican style, then consider adding affection and humor to your texts.

Don’t count the syllables on your fingers. the most popular verses are not written… they are sung to the rhythm of a good bolero! The most important thing is to hear how they sound before writing your literary calaverita.

calaverita a frida kahlo
Image: Lifeder

Examples of literary calaveritas

Here are some examples of literary calaveritas that may inspire you.

Example of how to make a short literary calaverita

La flaca went by Gael
to the film set,
pa que el tiempo hace de él
una estrella del panteón.

Author: @OscarDelDiablo (Twitter)

COVID literary calaverita

This year two thousand and twenty
of so many tribulations
death may find
filled not a few pantheons.

He must be careful,
the COVID is very strong,
because if he catches a cold
in bed he will be lucky.

He rubs his bones with gel,
in front of his skull with a mask,
and says a lot of prayers
so as not to make things worse.

As quarantine has been
people at home stay,
easy his work has not been
as long as the virus does not give way


Arrived at a very ugly house
with a tremendous party,
the door loudly knocks,
a guy comes out and answers


“I know well that you try to take me
but this will not be funny to you
since you can’t touch me
respect healthy distance.”

Author: Lino Ríos in

Example of funny literary calaverita

Through plains and deserts,
whether by machete or bullet,
you left from Atenco to Iguala
a whole trail of dead.
And by adding mistakes
you left the country broken.
But death takes note
and secretly prepares
to take you away, Peña Nieto,
and also your Gaviota.

Author: Oscar de Pablo (Verne magazine)

Example of how to make a literary calaverita for teachers

At the Jaime Torres School
Death came to ask
For the teacher Jaime Torres
Because he wanted to hire him.

So that he would go to give classes
There to the cemetery
To the deceased who left
And whom we have missed so much.

Author: Isabel Vázquez at

Example of how to make a literary calaverita for children

My beautiful brother
To be of destruction
My little brother
Breaks my heart

In the classroom he slipped away
Unseen by God
And on the wall he wrote:
“Foolish who reads it.”

More explosive than a rocket
Sweeter than a cake
But not even death
Wants to be with him.

Author: Marco Antonio Vera Tapia at

have you already seen that learning how to make literary calaveritas is not as complicated as it seems? Create your own blog and learn how to write in the third person. There is nothing more exciting in the world of letters than writing what comes from your heart and your imagination.

good luck!

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