Virgin of Guadalupe

Florida International University
The Virgin of Guadalupe: an Image of a Superhero for Chicana Artists

Nicole Stratten

The Virgin Mary holds an unrivalled place in the history of Christianity in Latin America. Although she is represented in many forms, the most common is Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The immaculate conception refers to the Virgin Mary being conceived free from the stigma of original sin or the sin committed by the biblical figures Adam and Eve. Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception became widely recognized as the Virgin of Guadalupe in New Spain, now known as Mexico and the American Southwest. The Virgin of Guadalupe is depicted as a young woman, with the moon beneath her feet, wearing a blue veil full of stars and radiance emanating from her entire body (Image 1). She has risen above all other saints in Mexico as the multifaceted image of motherhood, nourishment, health, salvation, and national destiny.[1] Since the Virgin of Guadalupe has moved from being a demure religious icon to a symbol of national identity to a powerful image for feminist identity among women living in Mexico and the American Southwest. Not only has the meaning behind the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe changed, so has her physical representation. This study will look at her transformation from a religious icon to a superhero in the eyes of Mexican-American women of the American Southwest, known as Chicanas, and Mexican women artists. It will investigate the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe and how Chicana artists treat her as a superhero.

The History of the Virgin of Guadalupe
            The Virgin of Guadalupe emerged in Spain between 1300 and 1500 A.D. after the fall of the Moors, when a dark-skinned statue of her was placed in the Jeronymite Monastery in Extremadura.[2] This Spanish Guadalupe would become associated with the discoveries made by Christopher Columbus, who in 1486 traveled to the monastery in Extremadura to begin persuading Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand V to underwrite his planned exploration of the Indies.[3] In 1519, the Spaniards arrived in Mexico and officially introduced Christianity and their devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe to the Western Hemisphere.[4]
            In the first conquest of New Spain, the Virgin Mary was La Conquistadora, a symbol of Spanish power, because she served as the supernatural protector of the Spaniards. For example, Hernan Cortés, a Spanish conquistador, carried a campaign banner with the image of Mary and the province of Tabasco was given the name Holy Mary of Victory during the military conquest. The Virgin Mary, in the earliest years of New Spain, was understood by the Indians and Spaniards as the embodiment of Spanish sovereignty in a cosmic confrontation of supernatural forces. The Spaniards had weapons, tools and animals that were foreign to the Indians. The advantage the Spaniards had over the Indians in battle gave the impression that they were sent by the Gods or were Gods themselves. They had what seemed like supernatural powers to the Indians, because they were able to kill their warriors in masses. The destruction was beyond anything they had seen before. While the Indians saw the Spanish as having the power of the gods, the Spanish saw themselves as being successful due to the power given to them by the Mother of God. In this confrontation the Spaniards were intent on dethroning the old gods and replacing them with Mary in the native temples and sacred places. Not only was Mary leading their conquest and giving the Spanish the strength they needed to conquer Latin America, she was also what they would use to try to replace the indigenous Gods of the natives and ultimately rule Mexico. Religion and sovereignty were inseparable to the Spanish conquistadors; therefore, Cortés presented images and statues of the Virgin to the Indians as representations of divine mission and Spanish rule.[5]
            One could say that the story of the Mexicanization of the Virgin of Guadalupe began on 9 December 1531 with the apparition of the Mother of God to Juan Diego, a recently converted Nahua Indian.[6] Juan Diego was on his way to mass when he heard singing coming from a hillock called Tepeyac. As he neared Tepeyac, he saw a woman dressed in garments that glowed and radiated like the sun, beckoning him. She called out to him by name and spoke in his native language. She asked him to tell Don Fray Juan de Zumárraga, Bishop-elect of Mexico, that she wanted a temple built where she stood so that she could be near all the people, whom she would love and protect.[7] The temple and the miracle surrounding the building of the temple would draw people for miles around to worship her, as is seen in today with the pilgrimage to the Basilica de Guadalupe. In the past the popes having understood the importance of the Guadalupan Event granted graces, privileges and indulgences to the Guadalupan Sanctuary of the Tepeyac. One of the oldest documented examples of this was in 1573, Pope Gregory XIII granted graces and plenary indulgences to the faithful who visited the Church of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe to recite prayers.[8] Granting graces and plenary indulgences draws large crowds of devout Christian followers, because they believe that it will help them in the afterlife to avoid or to lessen the suffering that would occur in purgatory.
            Juan Diego reported the encounter to Don Fray Juan de Zumárraga through an interpreter. He relayed what the Virgin had said, but the bishop-elect was skeptical, it was well-known that Tepeyac Hill was the worship site of the ancient Aztec Goddess Tonantzin and the woman who appeared to Juan Diego was speaking in native tongue rather than in Spanish. Despite Zumárraga’s skepticism, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac Hill the very next day, where the Virgin appeared to him again. Juan Diego pleaded with her to find a better-suited messenger, but she repeated her assurance that he was the one appointed to carry her message.[9]
            The following day, Juan Diego attended Sunday Mass and returned to Zumárraga’s palace to wait to meet him. Juan Diego was finally granted an audience with Zumárraga and after many questions was told to ask the apparition for a sign of her identity. The next day, Juan Diego is said to have remained at home because his uncle, Juan Bernardino, was severely ill. The following morning Juan Diego set out to find a priest to deliver last rites to his dying uncle when he remembered the Virgin. He decided to take a detour in order to avoid her. However, the Virgin again appeared to him. She assured him that she was the Virgin and promised to validate her true identity. She also announced that his uncle would be healed and not die of his expectedly fatal illness. This was her first therapeutic miracle. [10]
            The Virgin then told Juan Diego to return to the place on the hill where she had first appeared to him. There he was to collect some “Castillian flowers,” known as roses, that would be the sign the bishop-elect requested. Juan Diego obeyed her instructions and was stunned to find beautiful flowers growing in barren, dry earth that was otherwise covered in cactus and brush. He took the flowers back to the Virgin, who then placed them with her own hands into the folds of Juan Diego’s cloak or tilma (woven of áyate fibers and worn by Náhua males). She then assured him that these flowers would be the final proof, the sure sign that she was the Ever-Virgin. Juan Diego returned to meet with Zumárraga and when he knelt down, a cascade of flowers fell to the floor. According to the story, at that instant there was a sudden flash upon the tilma and a portrait of the Virgin Mary appeared.[11]
            News of these amazing events quickly spread throughout the immediate area. Tradition relates that Zumárraga recognized the importance of the image on the tilma and ordered an adobe chapel erected immediately to house the image of the Virgin. From this time on, the miraculous painting was said to have been available for public viewing with few interruptions. Popular history gives a brief chronology of the image that suggests it may have been housed in five churches over the centuries. Oral history and now-lost but often cited handwritten records from December 1531 tell us that an adobe chapel was built at Tepeyac and that it was to this hermitage to which the tilma image could have been transferred.[12] The loss of records and the use of oral history have contributed to the blurry memories of the introduction of the Virgin of Guadalupe to Mexico’s history. Oral history leaves room for individuals to add their own beliefs and to abstract the truth leading to contradicting stories in history, as is seen with the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexican history.

The Basilica of Guadalupe- Temple of the Virgin of Guadalupe
            In December 1555, a stone and mortar structure was placed where the original mud-brick foundation may have stood. The second building was called Hermitage of Montúfar and was dedicated in 1556. The third structure was started in 1609 and was dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1622. The fourth, and the first to be officially designated a basilica, was started in 1695 and finished by 1709. The fourth structure is still standing, at a noticeable tilt, but it is no longer in use. During the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Mexico was attempting to forge its own identity. While, the Spanish imposed their beliefs and socioeconomic systems on Mexico. It took the Mexican people centuries to achieve this goal. The Virgin of Guadalupe would be at the forefront after the Mexican Nationalist Revolution of 1910-1917, just as she had served in the forefront of the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards. After the Nationalist Revolution, the fifth and last building, also a basilica, was dedicated to the Virgin in 1976.[13] At full capacity it is capable of holding approximately ten thousand people at one time. It is located in the heart of the area called La Villa de Guadalupe.[14] The miraculous image of the Virgin on the tilma is hermetically sealed in a frame in the new basilica and is viewed annually by millions of people who look at it from a moving walkway.[15]

The Virgin of Guadalupe within the Nationalist Movement and Mexican Muralist Movement
            While the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the portrait of the Virgin on the tilma are highly important and well visited, the love of and pride in the Virgin of Guadalupe moved her outside the church. Following the Nationalist Revolution, the arts took on the role of teaching the public about their identity through the use of public murals. The Mexican Muralist Movement, in its initial stages, was presented as a synthesis of art and the popular imagination, a concept described by the German playwright Bertolt Brecht as being “intelligible to the broad masses, adopting and enriching their forms of expression, assuming their standpoint, confirming and correcting it ... relating to traditions and developing them.”[16] The Mexican muralists were not isolated from Mexican society artistically or intellectually; rather they played a central role in the cultural and social life of the country following the 1910-1917 nationalist revolution.[17] In the first instance, the murals expressed a national experience with the community. The murals could not be bought or sold because they were created and commissioned as permanent fixtures in some of the most important public buildings of Mexico. As public art, one of the murals’ principal aims was to represent a notion of democratic cultural ownership. The murals became a vital part of the many layers of Mexican civic and national life for huge segments of the Mexican population.[18] The Virgin was integrated into the Mexican Muralist Movement, because the Mexican people used her as a symbol of their identity during the nationalist movement. This moved her out of the religious and into the public sphere for the first time. She was no longer housed in the Basilica de la Virgen de Guadalupe; she was now painted on public walls for all to see. The murals were also an opportunity for the public to paint her according to how they saw her: as a warrior, a fighter, and a superhero. This public image of the Virgin of Guadalupe would extend into the United States, where the Mexican-American, or Chicana, population also appropriated her for their paintings and decorations.

The Chicano Movement
The term Chicana/o came into widespread use in the 1960s as part of the Chicano civil rights movement otherwise known as El Movimiento.[19] Each of these terms gave way to a decolonizing political ideology that is critical of anti-Mexican sentiment and melting-pot ideals of assimilation into Eurocentric culture. For example the description “Mexican American” is seen as a way to make people of Mexican decent assimilate to Anglo American culture. This was traded-in for the term Chicano/a. It should be noted, however, that some scholars use the term Chicana/o to refer to the first Mexican-Americans who came into existence as a result of the United States’ war of expansion against Mexico.[20] Even though Chicanos/as were looking to forge a new identity that was neither Mexican nor Anglo American they still held onto gender roles from their past. El Movimiento involved both men and women of Mexican decent and, therefore, held onto the gender roles that were often practiced in Mexico: women were passive while men were aggressive.

The Role of Women within El Movimiento
Women were actively involved in El Movimiento from its inception, but they often took on the traditional roles played by women in society.[21] Women within El Movimiento were seen as either Adelitas or Malinches. An Adelita is a woman who obeys and serves the needs of men within El Movimiento, while Malinches were women who sought to build their own identity within El Movimiento. The Malinches are named after a historical figure who was sold into slavery and eventually became the translator and lover of the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. She is associated with trickery, betrayal and manipulation because she is looked at as having betrayed her own people by encouraging the conquest and colonialization of the Americas. Although both Adelitas and Malinches were seen as women who have stepped outside the boundaries of their gender to dictate their own sexual identity, what we see in the Malinche/Adelita dichotomy is the difference, respectively, between the bad whore, who sells her body to outsiders, and the good whore, who offers her body for the sake of la Causa (the political ideas behind El Movimiento). [22] A group of women within El Movimiento began a process to resolve the inconsistencies between male/female roles, but not all women agreed with their ideas.[23]
            The Chicano (male) identity was symbolized by the cries of Viva la raza! Viva la causa! (Long live the race! Long live the cause!) and by the concepts of Chicanismo, el Quinto Sol and associated with the seminal birthplace of Aztlan.[24] El Quinto Sol and Aztlan are linked to Maya and Aztec myths of origin. The role of women for the Chicano was to carry on the cause and the race by populating Aztlan with her offspring. There was no room in that plan for feminists, lesbians, or queers. Anyone who had an agenda beyond race and class could not be a real Chicano, because they saw themselves as oppressed by the color of their skin and by the nature of their being. As a consequence, the sole means of preservation and equality before all men was in their color and in their raza (race).[25] Women were encouraged to go to school specifically for this reason. Their purpose was to discourage Chicano men from marrying Anglo women they met there, rather than for what most people go to school for: an education. This would ensure that the Chicano race would continue to exist and not be diluted by mixing with other races. Therefore, true Chicanas only lived for two things: their men and families, and for the struggle.[26]
            The Chicana struggle came out of El Movimiento and was founded on the fact that Mexican and Chicana women have traditionally faced a series of stereotypes, misconceptions and restrictions from society at large and from within their own communities.[27] Many of these are similar to those shared by women in general, and some are specific to a Latin American mentality. The Chicana in reality is the result of two cultures: the traditional Mexican culture, where the woman is subordinate to the man, experienced at home in diluted forms; and the dominant North American culture, where there is greater liberty for women outside the home. Chicanas, like women everywhere, have never conformed to the stereotypes manufactured about and for them by male historians, psychologists, and other apologists or contributors to female oppression. Chicana and Chicano historians and sociologists are revising the history of Mexican women in publishing the names and deeds of writers, intellectuals, labor leaders, and social reformers, as well as the lives of thousands of unnamed working woman whose combined actions have shaped history.[28] This was also a strategy within mainstream feminism where women left out of history and art history throughout the world are replaced in a new history.
            Like their Mexican counterparts, Chicano men assign three roles to the females: motherhood, virginity, and prostitution.[29] Mexican women were expected to be gentle, mild, sentimental, emotional, intuitive, while men were supposed to be hard, rough, cold, intellectual, rational, farsighted, profound, strong, authoritarian, independent, and brave. These ideals of how a woman should act would be placed on women during El Movimiento and would be maintained by their male counter parts by their stereotypical behavior. During the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, women were valued for their biological contributions to the struggle, as evident in the idea that the job of Chicanas is to populate Aztlan. Chicanas could provide nourishment, comfort and sexual release for the men and future revolutionaries for la Causa. Women were seen as the carriers of the culture, but their own revolutionary role was restricted by their procreative function. Following this understanding, a Chicana could not adopt feminism as a strategy for liberation. In the beginning stages of the Chicano Movement, it was believed that feminists could not be part of the movement because they were white middle class wannabes, men haters, lesbians and a threat to family values and beliefs, the complete opposite of what a Chicana was expected to be within the movement. [30]
            However, Shifra Goldman, an art critic and historian, states that there is no question that Chicanas living in North America were also influenced by the feminist movement, whose modern reincarnation was almost simultaneous with that of the Chicano movement: both products of the turbulent and reforming sixties.[31] While women played a prominent role in the Chicano movement, they felt the need for clearer articulation of their own role in society. The movement called for an end to oppression, discrimination, racism, and poverty, all goals which the Chicanas supported unequivocally, but did not propose basic changes in male-female relations or the status of women.[32]
            Even though Chicanas and the main groupings of white, middle-class U.S. feminists were often fighting for what seemed like the same goal, their meeting was not always cordial.[33] Racism and classism within the U.S. feminist movements often came under attack. For Third World women in the United States there is more to the question of women’s rights than equality with men. They are dedicated to liberating their whole people from the injustices of the dominant society that oppresses both men and women, while also insisting on their right to be equal and have the same opportunities for advancement as men. Sexism, for Chicana women, is connected to racism and economic exploitation. The direction of Chicana feminism, therefore, has particularly stressed issues affecting the victimization of women owing to their color and national origin and poverty as well as to their sex.[34]

The Depiction of  the Virgin of Guadalupe by Chicana Artists
            Once the Chicanas history and struggle is understood, it is clear how their struggle for political, sexual and cultural liberation shows through in their artistic work, particularly their works of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Understanding the works by Chicana artists that depict the Virgin of Guadalupe, requires interpreting the iconography and meaning behind the sixteenth-century portrayal of the Virgin of Guadalupe (Image 1). From the perspective of Western Christian iconography and cultural traditions, the Virgin of Guadalupe’s representation equates her with the Virgin Mary, the source of the apparition.[35] Theological references to the Virgin Mary include the Virgin Bride, Mother of the Church, Second Eve or Mother of All Humanity, Intercessor, Queen of Heaven, Mater Dolorosa, Woman of Valor, Black Madonna, Woman Clothed with the Sun, and Leader of the Heavenly Choir, among others.[36] She is known for her obedience to God, the support she offered her son and her restraint. Many of these characteristics of Mary are seen in the Guadalupe portrait that hangs in the Basilica in Mexico City. The clasped hands indicate prayer and homage to a person of status, a gesture dating approximately to the twelfth century.[37] Her radiant light marks her as the Immaculata (referring to the Virgin Mary conceived free from the stigma of original sin), as distinct from the Madonna with Child, and her perch on the moon, used throughout Christian art, also indicates her exceptional grace. Each aspect of the figurative composition is symbolic of her humility and obedience: her head is covered, her eyes cast down, and her face turned slightly away from the viewer.[38]
            Guadalupe has always existed in tension. She has been used both as an evangelizer and a force of resistance appealing to multiple interests, social classes, and cultural groups since the late sixteenth century. Some theologians argue that the image of Guadalupe communicates through the signs and symbols of the indigenous spiritual and cultural world. They suggest that the use of color, aura, stars, and a winged angel allowed indigenous people to see representations of their own deities, such as Quetzalcoatl, and therefore position Guadalupe as their protectress against colonial domination.[39]
            Quetzalcoatl is the Serpent God in the Aztec pantheon. The Nahua Indians believed that he would return from exile and restore his kingdom which is thought of as the Golden Age in Aztec history.[40] Quetzalcoatl is recognized by his serpent head and body covered in feathers (Image 2). Quetzalcoatl is the male partner or husband of Tonantzin.[41] The Virgin Mary in Mexico is often referred to as Tonantzin that is translated as “Our Mother”, however, it is also that name of the mother goddess whose tomb is located in the same location as the Guadalupan Apparition. Tonantzin for the Nahuas is understood as a creator figure and mother of the seed spirits.[42] This establishes the idea that Mary is a mother goddess to humanity parallel to the father God.[43] It is believed that this parallel between the Virgin Mary as mother and God as father is due to the fact that the Nahuas sought to understand the biblical figures in terms of the own religion where there is a tradition of male-female ruling pairs among their indigenous deities.[44] Once the relationship between Quetzalcoatl and Tonantzin is compared to the relationship between the Virgin Mary and God the Father it is clear why it is believed that there is some confusion as to how indigenous Mexico understands the Virgin Mary.
            The idea that the Nahua Indians may be confusing their Gods with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe due to certain depictions, for example the angel at her feet, comes from similarities between the deities. Quetzalcoatl is the Serpent King who wears feathers (Image 2). In the painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe she is shown with a winged angel at her feet (Image 1). The wings are made of feathers, for a Nahua Indian these feathers may be associated with the god Quetzalcoatl. This is made even clearer by the understanding the Nahua Indians believe that Gods come in male-female ruling pairs. This would mean that the Virgin Mary or Tonantzin cannot be depicted without her ruling partner Quetzalcoatl or the winged angel shown at her feet. In the Christian artistic tradition the winged angel at her feet is a guardian, not a male deity counterpart.
            The idea of the Virgin Mary being a Mother Goddess can also be seen in Indo-European goddess traditions. She is understood by some to be the last in a long string of Mother Goddesses originating in Europe; however, she does not have the same association with sexuality as previous Mother Goddesses. She would be the first virgin Mother Goddess.[45] The idea of the Virgin Mary as a goddess in Europe stems from the idea that she is the Mother of God. God is the creator of Earth and all that exists including humanity. Therefore if Mary is the mother of the man who created all that exists on Earth she is the ultimate creator. She is Mother Earth, the fertility goddess, the one who created humanity and she is often referred to the Mother of Humanity. The same confusion occurs in Europe, with the blending of pagan and Christian gods and saints, as was seen in Mexico. If the Virgin Mary in both Mexico and Europe is seen as a Mother Goddess she possesses power that is not given to her within Christian religion and their understanding of the role of the Virgin Mary.
In each of these instances the Virgin Mary is given the power of creation, of being the sole creator of humanity. With the understanding the Virgin Mary and by association the Virgin of Guadalupe are all-powerful beings. This female power and the various devotional expressions and interpretations of Guadalupe; however, have not altered women’s inferior status within the Church.[46] The women of the Chicano Movement will push to change women’s inferior status and give the Virgin of Guadalupe a makeover. The Virgin will become an image of strength and power. Chicana artists seeking knowledge of ancestral female pre-Colombian cultures, particularly when juxtaposed with their Guadalupe-themed work, was not an idealization of the golden age before colonization as has been regarded by some critics.[47] Chicana feminist art using the Virgin’s image reveals her as an everyday female; countercultural urban punk; working class middle-aged laborer; physically disabled, spunky, spirited, defiant girl; agent of sexual desire, both straight and queer. Another body of Chicana art represents her as a goddess. The Virgin of Guadalupe and pre-Colombian goddess myths and images serve to inspire Chicana feminist scholars and artists to investigate and then visualize non-patriarchal notions of womanhood as modeled by deity figures.[48]

Yolanda López
The juxtaposition of the visual traditions of both popular Mexican and Indigenous cultures present in the dark Virgin, La Morenita, has long been observed, but it was further explored in experiments combining visual elements from various European and pre-Columbian traditions by the Chicanas. Yolanda López (1942- ) experimented with these and other cultural collages extensively in her Guadalupe work from 1978 through 1988. López is a Chicana artist who was born in San Diego, California. Her well-known oil pastel Guadalupe triptych of 1978 has been reproduced numerous times, mainly in feminist and Chicana/o art publications (Image 3).[49] These drawings were part of a larger, groundbreaking Guadalupe series exploring the possibilities of mixing European and Mexican-Indigenous art histories and visual art languages.[50] Her Guadalupe triptych transforms into a new vision of Chicana womanhood and subjectivity.[51] The triptych is one of the first visual expressions to claim Guadalupe as a feminist icon of empowerment. Within each portrait, the repeated and manipulated iconography of Guadalupe signals women’s dignity and value. Visual arts scholarship on the Guadalupe series contextualizes her work in feminist aesthetic reclamations of the goddess, although López declares no spiritual connection to Guadalupe and was not interested in feminine mystical power.[52]At the time Lopez was an atheist; her concern with Virgin of Guadalupe iconography was more an experiment with speaking through the familiar to a population visually and not simply religiously.[53]
Yolanda López describes her interest in the Virgin of Guadalupe as follows:
For many Chicanos [the Virgin of] Guadalupe still has a religious and spiritual force. But I suspect her real power exists as a symbol of our national pride. There is something also nostalgic in our attitude towards her. She is an image infused with a certain kind of sentimentality for us. I looked at Guadalupe as an artist, as an investigator of the power of images. I was interested in her visual message as a role model. Essentially she is beautiful, serene, passive. She has no emotional life or texture of her own. She exists within the realm of magical mythology sanctified as a formal entity by religious tradition. She remains the Great Mother, but her representation is as plastic as our individual fears and aspirations.
Because I feel living, breathing women also deserve the respect and love lavished on Guadalupe, I have chosen to transform the image. Taking symbols of her power and virtue, I have transferred them to women I know. My hope in creating these alternative role models is to work with the viewer in a reconsideration of how we as Chicanas portray ourselves. It is questioning the idealized stereotypes we as women are assumed to attempt to emulate.[54]

López painted a series of paintings of the Virgin of Guadalupe in which she transformed the icon of the Virgin in order to celebrate and sanctify ordinary Mexican and Mexican American women as hardworking, assertive and vibrant.[55] Yolanda López began as a painter and is best known for this critical and iconoclastic Guadalupe series, in oil pastel on paper and with collage, in which she replaces the figure of the Virgin of Guadalupe with images of her grandmother, her mother, and herself as a runner, an Indian mother and other images, enclosed in the Virgin’s typical oval halo.[56] Her Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe (1978) (Image 4) depicts the Virgin as a marathon runner with muscular thighs and calves, and holding a serpent in her hand like a staff of power.[57] Crushed under her foot is an angel whose wings are red, white and blue. She describes the angel as a middle-aged agent of patriarchy. Lopez is a self-declared iconoclast who explained in a talk delivered at the University of California, Irvine, that she depicted the Virgin of Guadalupe as “jumping off the crescent moon, jumping off the pedestal she’s been given by Chicanos.”[58] The Virgin’s star-studded cloak, the little winged angel, her typical roses, the snake she tramples are incorporated into these portraits of ordinary women whom López feels “also deserve the respect and love lavished on Guadalupe.” Thus she questions the idealized stereotypes women are supposed to emulate.
López moved her theme from painting to three-dimensional works when Susan R. Mogul portrayed López in shorts and shirt as a runner within a living tableau in which objects from life were incorporated (Image 5).[59] They were experimenting with “live play” in her Tableau Vivant Series, to see what might happen if an energetic young woman posed for the camera, surrounded by symbols of her Mexican, feminist, and artistic identities, as if in a performance of the contemporary Guadalupe.[60] The photographs have the same feeling of action and power as the Guadalupe triptych.
López’s portrayal of the Virgin of Guadalupe altered the passive femininity of the traditional image to communicate feminist empowerment through change and physical action.[61] Here we see the move from the Virgin as a passive image in the Basilica de Guadalupe to an active image representing the strength of Chicana women. The Virgin in López’s work is seen running with what appears to be a cape flowing behind her. The cape has the typical dark blue background and gold stars that are symbols of the Virgin of Guadalupe. However, the Virgin is no longer wearing the material as a veil. This image of the strong woman running with a cape, stomping out patriarchy, is reminiscent of the image of Wonder Woman, a powerful female superhero. She wears red, white and blue and stomps out evil, just as López’s Virgin of Guadalupe stomps out patriarchy. The image of a strong, powerful woman stomping out patriarchy, something that at the time seemed impossible and extremely difficult to do as a group of women let alone as one solitary figure, gives the image a feeling of possessing supernatural strength. The Virgin Mary is stomping out centuries of ingrained patriarchical thinking in one leaping bound. In the context of Chicana/o art of the late 1970s and early 1980s, few works depict active or energetic women.[62]
On the popular front, the image has been criticized for suggesting sexual exuberance.[63] The pleasure in López’s work emerges from the body, but is not created for someone else. Running is physically exhilarating because it produces endorphins that stimulate the brain’s pleasure receptors. Yet the piece also suggests the emotional, psychological or spiritual joy found in the ability to take charge of one’s life, especially one’s sexuality, symbolically represented by the snake in the runner’s right hand.[64] The strength and power of the runner are conveyed through her muscular legs, the length of her stride and her effortless suspension in midair as she leaps over the angel.[65] By having the woman jump off the moon and over the angel, López implies that Chicanas are free of the anchors that hold them down and can step away from oppressive social codes that limit their expression.[66] López’s manipulation of the iconography of the Virgin of Guadalupe allowed her to weaken the patriarchical and Catholic expectations of women.[67]

Ester Hernández
Both Yolanda López and Ester Hernández (1944- ) portray Guadalupe in a way that alters the passive femininity of the traditional image to communicate feminist empowerment through change and physical action.[68] Hernandez’s etching La Virgen de Guadalupe Defendiendo los Derechos de los Xicanos (1975), depicts the Virgin as a karate black-belt kicking at an invisible oppressor, be it Uncle Sam or the self-indulgent and overbearing Diego Riveras of the Chicano Art Movement (Image 6).[69] The Virgin in Hernández’s etching is depicted wearing a karate uniform and a hooded cap with stars, much like those worn by wrestlers. The veil and dress worn by the traditional image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is traded for an athletic uniform. Her traditional demure pose is replaced with a strong karate kick to the side. The Virgin is held up by a strong angel using the cresent moon as a platform that supports her and gives her strength. Hernández, like López, depicts a strong, active Virgin of Guadalupe who is ready to take on traditional conventions and patriarchy like a superhero takes on the evils of the world.
Chicana feminism is Third World, identified by its concerns over class and color as key modes of subjectivity and oppression, but it also occurs in the context of entrenched Catholicism, a colonized history, and a First World economy. Issues of language and culture, of nationality and citizenship or autonomy and choice, all play significant roles in Chicana identity.[70] Although the nationalist mentality upon which much of the politics of El Movimiento was founded continues to believe that the label “Chicana feminist” is a contradiction in terms, it is perfectly possible for a woman to subscribe to the identity politics of Chicanoism and at the same time adopt a feminist politics of identity.[71] In the Chicano Art Movement, for example, Yolanda López upheld the Marxist ideologies of El Movimiento that focused on class and worker solidarity as central to liberation and defended the indigenista and mestizo values of Chicanismo that proudly affirmed a racially inscribed identity of resistance; they were also deeply concerned with gender inequalities and issues of autonomy and sexual and vocational self-fulfillment.[72]           
Chicana lesbian philosopher and poet Gloria Anzaldúa states that “la Virgen de Guadalupe is the single most potent religious, political and cultural image of the Chicano/mexicano,” pointing to the Virgin’s three intersecting domains as the reason for her wide-reaching authority.[73] In her theory of la frontera (the borderlands) and the new mestiza consciousness, Anzaldúa sought to understand female figures such as La Malinche, La Llorona (the weeping Virgin), and Guadalupe, that shape and confine Chicana womanhood.[74] She identifies the source of Guadalupe’s power as the overlapping domains- religion, politics and culture- that influence women’s lives.[75] Like Yolanda López, Anzaldúa examined the hold Guadalupe could have on nonreligious women.[76]
Rather than the chaste virgin, the weeping mother, and the treacherous whore, La Lupita, La Llorona and La Malinche are now configured as powerful icons of Chicana resistance to cultural hegemony and patriarchical domination.[77] La Lupita (colloquial name for the Virgin of Guadalupe) can be a karate expert, a marathon runner, or a seamstress, and she can also represent a religious mestizaje that includes European Catholicism, New World Santeria and indigenous American beliefs that go back as far as the Maya. La Llorona’s weeping is now interpreted as an oppositional scream against patriarchal inscriptions of womanhood, and among Chicana lesbians she symbolizes defiance to compulsory heterosexuality. La Malinche, once the Mexican Eve accused of the downfall of the Aztec empire, is now an affirmation of “la india,” who lives inside every Chicana/Mexicana/mestiza woman, who has refused unconditionally to continue to accept any form of oppression or violation of herself, whatever the source, and who has committed herself to a universal struggle for justice and dignity.[78]

Guadalupe Rodriguez
            Like Yolanda López, Guadalupe Rodriguez (1950) places the Virgin of Guadalupe within the realm of public art by expressing herself through her image. Guadalupe Rodriguez was born in the border town of Tijuana, Mexico.[79] She is a post-modern, self-taught artist who works in several mediums including oil, acrylic, ceramics, installations, performance and public arts. The goal of Rodriguez’s work is to rediscover and reclaim the Virgin of Guadalupe, not as a pure, chaste and demure mother, but rather as a powerful goddess that connects her culture to Coatlique and other ancient Mesoamerican goddesses.[80]
            Rodriguez’s painting La Luchadora (2005) (Image 7) depicts the Virgin of Guadalupe as a Mexican wrestler in traditional mask. She still wears her blue veil covered in gold stars, but her golden radiances have turned into plant leaves, like those of an aloe plant, found in the dry, warm climate in Mexico and the American Southwest. Not only are they traditional plants, but they also represent vegetation and the earth. The use of the plant leaves as radiances ties La Luchadora with the idea of Tonantzin being Mother Earth or an Earth Goddess. The Virgin of Guadalupe is seen as a mestiza, as redefined by Chicanas through the Mesoamerican goddess Tonantzin.[81] There are also elements of the ancient Mesoamerican goddesses through the use of skeletons on her belt and the serpents across her chest. The fact that she is dressed like a Mexican wrestler removes her docile, demure character and replaces it with one of strength and power. Rodriguez states: “She’s a superhero luchadora. In an effort to make us look at the Virgin in a different light, so that we can look at ourselves in a different light. If the Virgin can be many things, so can we. Not just the idea of daughter, wife, or mother. La Luchadora opens the door to all possibilities.”[82] Rodriguez takes the traditional image of the Virgin of Guadalupe and projects her own idea of what she represents. For Rodriguez, the Virgin of Guadalupe is a superhero. The Virgin of Guadalupe for Rodriguez is a figure that exists outside the human realm. She gives her strength and power that the average woman does not possess, by changing elements of her traditional dress and depiction for those of Aztec goddesses and a Mexican wrestler. She combines elements from figures that are seen as powerful in their own right, making her into a super power.
            The strength of the Virgin of Guadalupe for Rodriguez comes from her belief that the Virgin originates solely from ancient Mesoamerican Goddesses. This is a direct comment on the movement that started in the 1600s that claimed that the Virgin of Guadalupe in name and form arose from the Mexican culture, denying her Spanish origins.[83] This was during a time in Mexico’s history when the native was being sought out, in place of the Spanish, as the origin of national identity and culture.[84] This movement was more than just a renaming of the Virgin, it involved a change in the origins of the Virgin. Rather than transcendent sources, the movement believed that she came from mythical sources. Luis Becerra Tanco vastly advanced the indigenization of Guadalupe when in 1666 he renamed her Tequantlanopeuh, 135 years after the 1531 apparition.[85] Mariano Jacobo Rojas, some 360 years after her apparition, stated that she wished to be called Coatlaopeuh or “she who crushed the serpent’s head.”[86] The serpent heads clearly visible across the Virgin’s chest in Rodriguez’s La Luchadora, indicate her belief that the Virgin of Guadalupe did emerge from Mesoamerican indigenous origins.
            Mexican women and Chicanas are strongly motivated to make the Virgin of Guadalupe into a strong female figure using elements from Mesoamerica and the conquest because the Virgin serves as a role model and power figure to them. By changing her dress and giving her elements that are associated with strength and power Chicana artists are creating their own image of a superhero bestowed with the power of the ancient goddesses and the strength of marathon runners and wrestlers. The women of Mexico have traditionally been servants who work quietly within their homes and do not demand any praise for their work. Much of this attitude came from Catholicism, which oppressed women through the image and discourse of “Mary the mild.”[87] The indigenization of the Virgin of Guadalupe gives Mexican women the incentive to change such oppressive traditional roles. The Virgin of Guadalupe has taken on the strength of nature and been turned into the one “who crushes the serpent’s head,” rather than the serene, docile image of the past. Because it is only natural for women to identify with other women, the Virgin and her transformation provided the perfect opportunity for the women of Mexico to transform their identity and to finally move away from their traditional roles as mother, sister or daughter, and take on a role of power. The images created by López, Hernández and Rodriguez are meant to give strength to the movement for women to take control of their future and to leave their former lives of servitude behind. The Virgin of Guadalupe is used to give women supernatural powers that they do not possess in everyday life. She represents the struggle of women through the eyes of Chicanas and the supernatural strength and power they will need to overcome their oppression.

The Significance of the Virgin of Guadalupe’s Dress
            One way of giving women supernatural powers is to change the clothing and body decoration that is generally associated with them for non-traditional or empowering alternatives. López, Hernández and Rodriguez all transformed the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe by altering her traditional dress. Clothing and body decoration demonstrate the nature of membership in a given culture, whether it be normal, privileged, marginal, in opposition, or ambiguous.[88] Dressing and other forms of decorating the body are cultural practices that produce, reproduce, interrupt, or hybridize cultural values. The use or representation of dress and body ornamentation in visual art is both symbolic and productive. The figure in the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe from the sixteenth century is recognizable because of her blue veil with stars, red dress and golden radiances (Image 1). López in Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe, uses the same colors and the iconographic stars on her blue veil; however, she adds non-traditional elements like sneakers or the Virgin now wearing her veil like a cape (Image 4). Hernández in her work La Virgen de Guadalupe Defendiendo los Derechos de los Xicanos completely changes the Virgin’s dress by putting her in a karate uniform; however, the Virgin still wears her veil over her head (Image 7). The veil’s traditional elements are slightly altered to look like a hooded cape, as worn by a boxer or wrestler before a fight. Rodriguez, in La Luchadora, rather than altering her dress, simply adds a traditional Mexican wrestler mask and pre-colonial elements to her dress, such as the belt with a skull (Image 7).
In contemporary culture in the United States, dress remains a symbol that marks and produces gender identities, whether they be normative or, historically newer forms of constructing and representing femaleness, femininity, or an androgynous being.[89] Dresses, like other forms of dress and body ornamentation, are tools of racially constructed identities. For example, in the United States where the majority of domestic workers are Latina or African American, and racist assumptions about the inherent or cultural inequality of people of color continue to circulate, the uniform of the servant or nanny is likely to connote women of color in particular, while the power suit is more likely to call up images of Westernized women of a particular class.[90]
Pigment, physical build and comportment are forms of presenting the body that allow the interpretation of social roles considered typical of certain races or genders, whether white male bodies or those of women of color. Text, dress and body ornamentation speak both about how people form a social body and how they act within it. This is seen in the dress and body decoration in the Chicana art of the 1980s and 1990s, specifically through gendered and racialized histories of dress, manner, immigration, urban dwelling, academic discourse, art production and religious belief. For example, the works of Yolanda López address the numerous and conflicting ways in which socially and culturally invisible bodies of women of color mattered in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.[91] Rather than depicting anyone as the Virgin Mary she depicts her family and her family in their actual roles. Her mother is the Virgin Mary; however, she plays the role of a seamstress, a role traditionally taken on by women of color.

Isis Rodriguez
This can also be seen in the work of Kansas born artist Isis Rodriguez, one of the few women of color cartoonists in what is a white-male-dominated world. Rodriguez self-identifies her Virgin OF Guadalupe characters as superheroes as is often the case with comic book or cartoon characters. Rodriguez’s superheroines do not cater to the simple, untroubled fantasies of the typical, adolescent Anglo American male comic book and cartoon audience.[92] Rodriguez’s varied superhero Virgins are particularly witty because they are superheroines with brains, as well as the hypersexy bodies of the comic book world engaged in battle against the seemingly superhuman forces of sexism and racism.[93] It was often the case in the past that women depicted in comic books or cartoons play the role of the sexily damsel in distress who unknowingly walked into danger. She is then saved by the often intelligent, creative and witty male superhero with superhuman strength. The superhero Virgins are dark-skinned and show obvious attitude in their demeanor. Each one is dressed in cheeky clothing. Lupita Tee (1996) plays with a yo-yo while she strolls along in her short red t-shirt dress and shortened blue veil with stars (Image 8). Her Virgin LMA (1999) wears a red top with white trim, like a baby doll dress and the traditional blue veil with stars (Image 9). The radiances behind her head look like flames as is traditional with images of the Virgin of Guadalupe; however she wears large hoop earrings and a chain that are typical of what Latina women wear in contemporary life. Isis Rodriguez wants the young Chicana population to identify themselves with her renditions of the Virgin of Guadalupe and she does this through her dress.

The Virgin of Guadalupe: the Superhero
            The courage to depict the faces and work of the sexual expectations of negatively racialized women is at the core of the Virgin of Guadalupe art by Chicana feminist artists.[94] Their art argues against the disempowering patriarchal interpretations of the Mother of God that have turned her into a model of female submission for a male-centered society. In her study of twenty San Francisco Bay Area, second-generation, young married Catholic mothers Our Lady of Guadalupe: Faith and Empowerment among Mexican-American Women, the Latina Catholic theologian Jeannette Rodriguez observed of her sample and the larger community they might represent:
Traditionally, they have been encouraged to emulate Our Lady of Guadalupe’s qualities of humility, obedience, and ability to endure. If religious leaders stop at this limited view of Our Lady of Guadalupe, then the women will not have access to her other qualities: being faithful, tenacious, strong, a defender of the poor and many more... If these latter values/qualities were emphasized... then these women would have that much more to gain from this image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and she might remain a significant aspect of their worldview.[95]
Chicana artists have been at work since the early 1970s reinterpreting this image in the Chicano community and the feminist artist community.[96] Through hybridization with goddesses and popular culture superheroes, they have provided a different interpretation of not only the Virgin of Guadalupe, but also of the Christian Mother of God archetype that has constantly been used to project the patriarchal imagination for more than two thousand years. Chicana visual art seeks to depict the Virgin as an archetype of the powerful and empowering everyday woman, who embraces her body by breaking down the stereotypes associated with the Chicana. By doing so the Chicana becomes an image of the sacred by drawing parallels between the life of the Virgin Mary and their own lives. By depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe in a good light, as witty and strong, Chicana artists project the same image on themselves and other women in their situation of struggle against patriarchy and race. These positive images of women of color overturn the patriarchal projections that are rooted in colonial views of indigenous women and how the dark female body is viewed as a site of evil.[97]  
            Chicana scholars and artists have dared to go beyond the merely mortal, male-centered religious interpretations of gender, sexuality, and the demonization of paganism of the non-Western dark races, such as Santeria and witchcraft, refashioning for themselves interpretations of Guadalupe, the goddesses of Nahua, and other non-Christian pantheons.[98] She is seen as a figure of empowerment for women, a champion of the poor and of social justice, instead of icon of patriarchy.[99] Sandra Cisneros, a renowned Chicana writer, wrote:
My Virgen de Guadalupe is not the mother of God. She is God. She is a face for a god without a face, an indigena for a god without ethnicity, a female deity for a god who is genderless, but I also understand that for her to approach me, for me to finally open the door and accept her, she had to be a woman like me... When I see la Virgen de Guadalupe I want to lift her dress as I did my dolls’ and look to see if she comes with chones and does her panocha look like mine and does she have dark nipples too? Yes, I am certain she does. She is not neuter like Barbie. She gave birth. She has a womb, Blessed art thou and blessed is the fruit of thy womb... Blessed are thou, Lupe, and, therefore, blessed am I.[100]
Here the need of the Chicana to have someone of power to look up to is clear. This role model cannot be just anyone, she needs to be a woman who looks just like the everyday woman underneath all her strength and power. This is seen with classic superheros such as Batman, Spiderman and Superman. Each of these superheroes is an ordinary person who is usually in a position of disenfranchisement when they are not dressed like a super hero. They look and act just like everyone else in society who is down and out and this makes them easier to relate to for the average citizen. If the Virgin of Guadalupe can be imagined as having supernatural strength and power, but at the same time can look like the average Chicana then that means that every Chicana has the strength and power to make a difference, to stomp out patriarchy and fight against racism and classism.
Chicana artists look to the Virgin of Guadalupe as the protector of those disenfranchised by virtue of their gender, sexual orientation, stigmatizing racialization and poverty.[101] Images of the divine and religious systems, and the ideologies behind these systems, are recognized as having made women inferior to men in society. This was done by stories that have rationalized the physical, psychological, social, economic, legal and spiritual violence against women in male-centered cultures. Examples of this are La Llorona, the weeping woman; Malintzen Tenepal or Malinche, Cortes’s translator given to him as a gift; the curandera figure, a physical and spiritual healer. The pre-Columbian goddesses Coatlicue, Tonantzin, Coyolxauhqui, Mayahuel, Cihuacoatl; and the Virgin of Guadalupe have been reimaged by Chicanas in crucial post-1965 struggles over the social and ideological imagery that shapes today’s reality.[102] Chicanas hope that by changing how these historical and religious stories and women were seen in the past that they can then change how Chicanas are thought of in the present.
            The historical and present-day hypervisibility of images of women in positions of subservience and as objects of male power, sexual desire, and violence cyclically reinforces and is reinforced by the use of the Virgin of Guadalupe as a model of denial and passivity toward patriarchy.[103] Chicana feminist artists fight the representation of the everyday negatively racialized female body through her image.[104] Feminist Chicana artists have shown the Virgin of Guadalupe as an ordinary woman that sometimes shows her body, and is often dressed in contemporary clothing.[105] Her radiances that surround her body, her gown, and other signs of her sanctity are borrowed visually to protect or dignify and sacrilize the used bodies of real women. As a patroness of the Chicana/o movement, the Virgin has been promoted to goddess, queen and super-heroine by the Chicana feminist movement. She takes on the power and strength of the Mother Goddesses and uses her this power and strength to stomp out patriarchy and racism. Something that no single person is capable of achieving on their own, making her a superhero to Chicanas.
A superhero is a person who possesses strength and power beyond that of a normal human being, be it physical or mental. In the case of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico she is seen as submissive, servant, and quiet figure. The reason for this is that the conquest did not want to give her the strong image of the Virgin Mary, as was seen in Europe, for fear that the indigenous people of Mexico may see in her the strength of their Mesoamerica deities. The conquistadors did not want to give the indigenous people a power symbol that might be associated with the old non-Christian ways. The Virgin of Guadalupe as the submissive, demure Mary was then projected onto the Mexican population as the ideal female image that all women should emulate. The image of the ideal everyday woman being a submissive, quiet Virgin Mary makes the image of the new strong, powerful Virgin of Guadalupe all the more impressive and impactful. The Virgin of Guadalupe is depicted by Chicana artists as everything that the Adelitas of the Chicano Movement would never think of doing; she is cheeky, powerful, strong, and independent. She pushes beyond what was acceptable to being placed on equal footing with their male counterparts. She retains imagery of her quiet, submissive past; however, she takes on a strength and power that was never seen before in the history of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico and the American Southwest. This power, strength and guts to push femininity to an extreme are what make the Chicana images of the Virgin of Guadalupe into a superhero. This coupled with the fact that Guadalupe Rodriguez and Isis Rodriguez self-identify her as a superhero, gives the Virgin her new superhero image.
The same building of strength and power in the image of the Virgin Mary was also seen in Europe; however, in a different context. The Virgin Mary of Europe quickly became the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven through the goddess movements in Europe. The Virgin Mary retained her religious image and place in the church, but she was lifted up. She was given a place above the angels as the ruler of Heaven. The Chicana artists on the other hand made her the everyday woman that all Chicanas could identify with, removing her from the Church and her religious context. While the Virgin Mary of Europe became a powerful religious icon in the eyes of ordinary people, the Virgin of Guadalupe for Chicanas became the everyday woman with power and strength beyond their own to stomp out patriarchy in one leaping bound or one karate kick.

Is She Just a Symbol for Memories of the Past?
            For many Chicanas/os, the spiritual is linked to the idea of memory.[106] The method of remembering in the work of women is by the reimaging and reformulation of beliefs and practices rather than a paralyzing nostalgia for a past that cannot be retrieved. Women have the will to remember: to maintain in one’s consciousness, to recall, and to reintegrate the spiritual worldview about the interconnectedness of life.[107] Amalia Mesa-Bains, an artist, art critic and scholar considers that
it is through memory that we construct the bridge between the past and the present, the old and the new. The spiritual memory reflected in the works of contemporary Latino artists is a memory of absence constructed from losses endured in the destructive project of colonialism and its aftermath. The redemptive memory claims a broken reality that is made while in the retelling. In this context, contemporary art is more than a mirror of history and belief, it is a construction of ideology. Art becomes social imagination through which essential worldviews and identities are constructed, reproduced, and even redefined. Memory becomes the instrument of redefinition in a politicizing spirituality.[108]
The hybrid spiritualities evident in the work of some Chicana artists, ironically, are appropriations themselves. The traditional or contemporary practices of the American Indian, broader U.S. Latina/o, Latin American and African Diaspora cultures from which they draw are politically oppositional to neo-colonializing culture and religious systems. However, they may not have been received directly or fully through their own families’ cultures.[109] Some of these traditions have not been totally interrupted in the memory or practices of Chicana/o culture. Such cross-cultural borrowing and refashioning is the effect of a kind of minority or third world, post nationalist environment from which relative forms are recycled from the leftovers of neo-colonization to give expression to what is perceived to be a common pre-Christian worldview: the spiritual nature of all being and thus its unity. Such a view is ultimately contradictory to European imperialism in the Americas and elsewhere in the third world, with the reigning transnational practice of extreme exploitation of the planet and of an unskilled labor force that is disproportionately female and of color. Whether remembered through surviving traditional practices, or reimaged and fused together from chosen traditions, the invocation of the spiritual in the work of Chicana artists is politically significant, socially transformative and psychically healing.[110] One is pushed by such work beyond the survival, resistance, and opposition of the socially outcast. The work of Chicana artists calls for the relevance of the spiritual, whether understood as the sacred and interconnected nature of self and world, or on the contrary, as the beliefs and practices of politically oppressive religious institutions. In such work, the reality of a socially and materially embodied spirit is consciously remembered, alongside other historically specific and related issues of race, gender, sexuality and class.[111]

The Virgin of Guadalupe has moved from being a demure, quiet, submissive figure to one of strength and power for the Chicana movement. Chicanas do not reflect on the Virgin of Guadalupe as a past that has been lost, but rather as a past that pushes Chicanas to strive for equality and power for the future. Chicana artists achieve this by giving the Virgin Mary super natural strength through her image as a marathon runner, a wrestler, karate kicker, or a cheeky comic book character. They use their memory of ancient Mexico and the Mother Goddess to give her supernatural powers of the Gods. This is done by depicting her with imagery that is associated with Tonantzin, whose temple is where the Virgin of Guadalupe made her first apparition. While each artist approached the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe in their own unique way, they share the common goal of giving her supernatural power and strength while still making her recognizable and approachable for the downtrodden Chicana seeking a source of strength and inspiration. The Virgin of Guadalupe, as depicted by Chicana artists, is a superhero with the supernatural powers to stomp out patriarchy in one leap and the strength to take on racism and classism that has existed since colonial times all on her own. She is no longer the symbol of the submissive woman and ideal Christian woman from colonial times.


Image 1 
Our Lady of Guadalupe
c. 16th Century
Oil on Canvas

Image 2
Aztec Codex

Image 3
Yolanda López
Guadalupe Triptych
Oil Pastel on Paper


Image 4
Yolanda López
Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe
Oil Pastel on Paper

Image 5
Susan R. Mogul 
Tableau Vivant Series
Color Photograph


Image 6
Ester Hernández
La Virgen de Guadalupe Defendiendo los Derechos de los Xicanos
Etching and Aquatint

 Image 7
Guadalupe Rodriguez
La Luchadora
Acrylic on Canvas

Image 8
Isis Rodriguez
Lupita Tee
T-shirt Image


Image 9
Isis Rodriguez
Virgin LMA
Acrylic, Pen, and Ink on Bristol


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[1]William B. Taylor, “The Virgin of Guadalupe in New Spain: An Inquiry into the Social History of Marian Devotion,” American Ethnologist 14, (1, Frontiers of Christian Evangelism) (Feb. 1987), 9.
[2]Jacqueline Orsini Dunnington, Guadalupe: Our Lady of New Mexico (Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1999), 3.
[3] Dunnington, 4.
[4] Ibid, 5.
[5] Taylor, 10
[6] Eduardo Chávez, Veronica Montano, The Virgin of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego: The Historical Evidence, (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), XX.
[7] Taylor, 10.
[8] Chávez, XXIX.
[9] Taylor, 10.
[10] Ibid, 11.
[11] Idem.
[12] Ibid, 12.
[13] Idem.
[14] Ibid, 13.
[15] Ibid, 14.
[16] Desmond Rochfort, Mexican Muralists: Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros (Chronicle Books, 1998), 7.
[17] Idem.
[18] Idem.
[19] Dunnington, 12.
[20] Idem.
[21] Gaspar de Alba, 125.
[22] Idem.
[23] Ibid, 125-126.
[24] Idem.
[25] Ibid, 126-127.
[26] Ibid, 127.
[27] Goldman, 198.
[28] Idem.
[29] Gaspar de Alba, 127.
[30] Ibid. 128.
[31] Goldman, 198-199.
[32] Ibid, 199.
[33] Idem.
[34] Idem.
[35] Karen Mary Davalos, Yolanda M. López (Los Angeles, California: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, 2008), 87.
[36] Idem.
[37] Idem.
[38] Idem.
[39] Idem.
[40] Jacques Lafaye, American Council of Learned Societies, Benjamin Keen, Octavio Paz, Quetzalcoatl and Guadalupe: The Formation of Mexican National Consciousness, 1531-1813, (University of Chicago Press, 1987), 149.
[41] Lafaye, et al., 213.
[42] Louise M. Burkhart, Before Guadalupe: The Virgin Mary in Early Colonial Nahuatl Literature. (University of Texas Press, 2001), 11.
[43] Idem, 11.
[44] Idem, 11.
[45] Michael P. Carroll, The Cult of the Virgin Mary: Psychological Origins, (Princeton University Press, 1992), 5.
[46] Davalos, 87.
[47] Laura E. Perez, Chicana Art: the Politics of Spiritual and Aesthetic Altarities. (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2007), 272.
[48] Idem.
[49] Ibid, 272-273.
[50] Ibid, 273.
[51] Davalos, 1.
[52] Ibid, 3.
[53] Perez, 273.
[54] Goldman, 208. Yolanda Lopez.
[55] Davalos, 1.
[56] Shifra Goldman, Dimensions of the Americas? Art and Social Change in Latin America and the United States (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1994), 229.
[57] Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Chicano Art Inside/ Outside the Master’s House: Cultural Politics and the CARA Exhibition (Austen, Texas: The University of Texas Press, 1998), 140-141.
[58] Gaspar de Alba, 141.
[59] Goldman, 229.
[60] Dolavos, 21-22.
[61] Gaspar de Alba 141.
[62] Davalos, 89.
[63] Idem.
[64] Ibid, 89-91.
[65] Ibid, 91.
[66] Idem.
[67] Davalos, 81.
[68] Gaspar de Alba, 141,
[69] Ibid, 139-141.
[70] Gaspar de Alba, 123-124.
[71] Ibid, 125.
[72] Idem.
[73] Ibid, 80.
[74] Idem.
[75] Idem.
[76] Idem.
[77] Gaspar de Alba, 143.
[78] Idem.
[79] Daniel Valencia, An Interview with Artist Guadalupe Rodriguez (California State University, Northridge, 2007), 1.
[80] Ibid, 2-3.
[81] Perez, 33.
[82] Valencia, 10.
[83] Dunnington, 8.
[84] Idem.
[85] Idem.
[86] Idem.
[87] Perez, 33.
[88] Ibid, 50.
[89] Ibid, 51.
[90] Idem.
[91] Idem.
[92] Ibid, 231.
[93] Idem.
[94] Ibid, 258.
[95] Ibid, 259.
[96] Idem.
[97] Idem.
[98] Idem.
[99] Ibid, 259-260.
[100] Ibid, 260.
[101] Idem.
[102] Idem.
[103] Ibid, 265.
[104] Ibid, 265-266.
[105] Ibid, 262.
[106] Ibid, 23.
[107] Idem.
[108] Idem.
[109] Ibid, 24.
[110] Ibid, 25.
[111] Idem.