She was created by Mexican engraver and illustrator José Guadalupe Posada. Posada (1852-1913) was also a political satirist renowned for his images of skeletons (calaveras in Spanish) which he used to mock the upper classes and social and political injustice.
La Catrina is now a symbol of Day of the Dead celebrations held in Mexico every November. Wearing her signature hat she depicts a turn of the century upper class lady.
The photo above was taken at an exhibit of Posada’s work in Mexico City at the Presidential Palace. The palace features the elaborate murals of Diego Rivera who was a big fan of Posada.
Today Mexican folk artists emulate Posada’s work, recreating La Catrina in wood carvings, ceramics, paintings and other mediums.
Here is an example of her in an altar set up by local artists for the Day of The Dead (Dia de los Muertos) in Oaxaca.