The Evolution of La Virgen de Guadalupe in Chicano Art

3152 words 13 pages
A beautiful dark-skinned brunette stands before you. Her long, flowing hair beautifully frames her sweet face and demure smile. Yards of richly colored clothing adorn her tall, slender frame. Rays of sunlight appear from behind, emphasizing pure beauty. Her hands are joined together and she holds them at her chest in worship or, perhaps, in gratitude. Who is she, or rather, who do you see? Practicing Catholics all over Central and South America see a venerated patron saint. In Mexico, she is immediately recognizable as symbolic mother of a nation, ‘nuestra madre.’ New generations of mestizos see a symbol of all that is woman, as real and complex as their mothers, sisters, daughters, and lovers. Who you see depends on who you are, but all …show more content…

Reclamation of traditional cultural and religious iconography for political purposes becomes a recurring theme among Mexican-American artists and the defining criteria for the classification of art as Chicano. While Chicano art differs from Mexican art in that Mexican and other Latin art is rooted in pre-Columbian traditions and folklore, Chicano art also acknowledges American education and experience as part of what shapes an artist and his message. On the heels of the Chicano movement, the Civil Rights movement, and public outrage over America’s participation in the Vietnam War, women’s issues also battle for attention on a national level. Feminism as a movement gains significant momentum in the 1960’s; within a decade, Chicana feminists begin to use Guadalupe in their artwork. As Rosie the Riveter forged a path for Anglo feminists, Guadalupe remains the most powerful vehicle for the Chicana agenda. Up until this point, the Virgin was most often appropriated for purely inspirational purposes, and artist’s interpretation of her image and intent remain congruous to her religious authority. Now, in light of new feminist theory, says Felipe Ehrenberg in "Framing an Icon: Guadalupe and the Artist’s Vision,“ Latina artists “seek to reconstruct the deity’s presence, and in doing so, manage to define her usefulness to their causes.” Ester Hernandez, a Chicana artist working early in the movement’s history, is one of the first to