The Virgen of our Roots
La Virgen de Guadalupe is the only or one of the very few religious characters that are based on our ancestral indigenous heritage and it is exciting!
If you are very religious in the Catholic faith don’t read this unless you want to feed your curious mind and not be offended.
She is part serpent mother, fertility goddess, moon priestess and night keeper.
When the beloved (wink) Spanish conquistadors brought their religion as a form a crusade with the excuse to “save the souls of the savages”, who by the way were already performing brain surgery, had invented the binary system and were doing math with the Zero (thank you very much). The conquistadores or invadors were not really discovering a new world but wanted the gold and access to spices and other goods that were found here and as used religion to justify the expenses to Isabela la Catolica who was funding most of this endeavor.
So enough of the background since you might already be familiar with that.
Catholicism was not very well received but something happened when the virgen Mary was introduced as many were able to relate to her and so symbols from Goddesses like Tonatzin, Coatlicue and Coyolxauhqui were incorporated to motherly figure and became what we now know as the Virgen of Guadalupe.
Of course there is the story of Juan Diego, the indigenous man who spoke Nahuatl, who witnessed her appearance on December 12 th 1531 on Tepeyac Hill, north of Mexico City.
Here’s a “little bit” about the goddesses:
Tonantzin or “Our Sacred Mother” in the Nahuatl language and is symbolically connected to fertility and the earth.
In Nahuatl-speaking communities (in other communities as well), the Virgin of Guadalupe continues to be called “Tonantzin” and is a national symbol of the Mexican nation and she is a special protector of Native American peoples.
The Coatlicue or “snakes-her-skirt" and “mother of the gods”), is the Aztec goddess who gave birth to the moon, stars.
The carved statue made of andesite is impressive and was found originally at the Mexica city of Tenochtitlan.
The Spaniards were so creeped out that they buried it after the 1521 Spanish conquest of the city and excavated 270 years later. This lady was represented by dismembered head, hands along with the rest of her body.
The goddesses Tocih “our grandmother”, and Cihuacoatl “snake woman”, the patron of women who die in childbirth, were also seen as aspects of Coatlicue.
Coyolxauhqui was the Moon goddess and her name means "Golden Bells." She was the daughter of the Earth goddess, Coatlicue.
Another fun fact is that the Virgen of Guadalupe’s image was used on the flag during the insurrection, the movement that gave birth to the independance and was also used during the revoluiton.
Finally- down to my painting. I just had to fill you in with all this amazing research that I gathered before starting.
The owner and curator of The Sagrado Gallery asked me for a piece to be displayed for the Virgen de Guadalupe show and did now want to paint the same old version of it.
I really wanted it to emphasize the symbols of indigenous origin which I will break up here below.
The veil represents the rebozo that is used by indigenous women both for the cold and to carry their infants.
The blue corn kernels are sacred through out the native americas. These are located behind her veil.
The cempacuchil flowers or flower of the dead I use it to bridge a symbol that is used for the Day of Dead celebration. A tradition that has it’s origins in pre-colonial times.
The dismembered hands, the skull and the two hearts are motifs taken for the Coatlicue sculpture.
Her skirt is made of stars to refer to Coyolxauhqui as well as the white moon she is kneeling on. In the tradition Virgen the Guadalupe you can locate a dark moon at her feet.
The two headed snake alludes to Cihuacoatl, the snake woman.
Her earrings are made of serpent scales.
And the rays around her are a relief to bridge both the rays of light from the Virgen Mary and the stone carving of Coatlicue.
Special thanks to my friend Melissa Trujillo who posed for this piece.
I hope you enjoy my art!