Our Lady of Guadalupe brings a message of holy empowerment that speaks to LGBT people -- and angers Christian conservatives. Queer art based on Guadalupe is shown here for her feast day today (Dec. 12). She is an Aztec version of the Virgin Mary that appeared to Aztec peasant Juan Diego outside Mexico City on Dec. 12, 1531.
In Juan Diego’s vision, the dark-skinned Virgin of Guadalupe spoke to Juan Diego in Nahuatl, the Aztec language, addressing him as if he were a prince. It was astonishing because Mexico had been conquered 10 years earlier by Spaniards who claimed to have the one true faith. An icon of her, looking just as Juan Diego described, was imprinted on his cloak as a miraculous sign. Our Lady of Guadalupe became a popular symbol of dignity and hope for the native people of Mexico, and by extension to indigenous people everywhere.
The hill where Juan Diego had his vision used to be the site of an ancient temple to the Aztec mother goddess Tonantzin. Her temple was destroyed by the Spanish conquistadors. Our Lady of Guadalupe (or in Spanish Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe) asked for a church to be built in her honor right there, among the conquered people. That shrine is now the most popular Catholic pilgrimage destination, receiving more than 6 million visitors per year.
Even standard icons of Guadalupe are subversive because they show the Virgin as a dark-skinned Mexican, challenging the Euro-centric images of her as a blue-eyed white lady. The foremothers of the Mexican Guadalupe include the Black Madonnas, especially the medieval Spanish Our Lady of Guadalupe in Extremdaura, Spain.
Those who took the liberating vision a step further to create queer Guadalupe art include Tony De Carlo, Alex Donis, Alma Lopez, and Jim Ru.
|"Our Lady of Controversy" cover|
by Alma Lopez
|“Lupe and Sirena in Love”|
by Alma Lopez
“Our Lady” is erotic, but there is more overt lesbian content in some of the other images of Our Lady of Guadalupe that Lopez made. The Aztec moon goddess Coyolxauhqui has been interpreted as a lesbian deity by Chicanas such as writer-activist Cherrie Moraga. Lopez paints Coyolxauhqui, machete in hand, as Guadalupe in the image at the top of this post: “Coyolxauhqui Returns as Our Lady disguised as La Virgen de Guadalupe to defend the rights of Las Chicanas.” Her website, almalopez.net, includes images of a romance between Guadalupe and a mermaid in artwork such as “Lupe and Sirena in Love.”
Artist Tony de Carlo affirms the holiness of gay love with colorful, festive paintings of queer saints, Adam and Steve, same-sex marriage and much more. His genderbending “Chulo De Guadalupe” appears near the top of this post. In Mexican slang “chulo” refers to someone who is cute and, in some cases, sexy.
De Carlo is a native of Los Angeles, now living in Savannah, Georgia. His work is exhibited regularly in museums and galleries throughout the United States.For more on Tony De Carlo and his art, see my previous post: Gay saints, Adam and Steve, and marriage equality art affirm LGBT love: Tony De Carlo Interview.
Alex Donis painted the Virgin of Guadalupe kissing Mary Magdalene as part of “My Cathedral,” a series that showed people of opposite viewpoints kissing in same-sex pairs. Donis was familiar with contradictions from his own “tri-cultural” identity: pop, queer, and Latino. Born to Guatemalan parents, he grew up in East Los Angeles.
His “My Cathedral” exhibit caused a frenzy when it opened in San Francisco in 1997. Heated arguments erupted in the gallery, followed by threatening phone calls and letters. Vandals smashed two of the artworks: Jesus kissing the Hindu god Rama, and guerilla leader Che Guevara kissing labor organizer Cesar Chavez. Most people overlooked his painting of Guadalupe kissing Mary Magdalene, but it remains a potent, beautiful expression of the union of sexuality and spirituality. It is included in my book “Art That Dares.”
|"Virginia Guadalupe" by Jim Ru|
Jim Ru painted a bearded drag queen version of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Titled “Virginia Guadalupe,” the painting was displayed in his show “Transcendent Faith: Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Saints” in Bisbee Arizona in the 1990s.
This bold painting certainly gives new meaning to the title bestowed upon Guadalupe by Pope Pius XII: “Queen of Mexico.” If the Virgin Mary could appear to an Aztec as an Aztec, then why not show up to a queer as a queer?
Virgen de Guadalupe Contemporary Art (Feminist Texican)
Decolonizing Sexuality and Spirituality in Chicana Feminist and Queer Art by Laura E. Perez (Tikkun)
A Visit to Alma Lopez’ Studio: Finding lesbian saints, mermaids, revolutionaries and goddesses (Jesus in Love)
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series and LGBT Holidays series at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, heroes and holy people of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year in the Saints series. The Holidays series celebrates religious and spiritual holidays, holy days, feast days, festivals, anniversaries, liturgical seasons and other occasions of special interest to LGBT and queer people of faith and our allies.
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