Alma Gómez

In much of my work I attempt to show that by looking into religious syncretism in 16th century Mesoamerica I am also able to examine how Chicanos/as create a cultural identity. The indigenous peoples' successful fusion of various Catholic elements with their own spiritual beliefs is similar to the ways Chicanos/as must adapt and blend their Mexican and American heritages in order to create for ourselves our ethnic identity.



Los Compadres

Los Compadres is a painting of my father and his compadres. Los Compadres speaks of the camaraderie among Chicanos. The idea of camaraderie in the form of compadres and comadres is an important social and cultural tradition that is esteemed within the Chicano culture. I am intrigued with the manner in which friendships form and evolve between people. It was always interesting for me as a young girl to witness my father interacting among his male friends. Those male relationships somehow seemed different than those of women.

This painting is based on an Easter Sunday picnic in the desert mountains of eastern California in 1967. The statement in this painting is simple. It is simply that of camaraderie among men. It is Easter Sunday and the families have gathered to celebrate the event. The men are enjoying their beers while they lean against one of the compadres' shiny Ford Fairlane. Tomorrow that same car will take them to work in the fields but for now it is a time to celebrate and enjoy each other's company.

El Corazon Sagrado

The inspiration for El Corazon Sagrado is the Mexican woman depicted in the painting. Her name is Socorro and she is a dear friend. I sit with her for hours and am enraptured in her storytelling. Her curandera wisdom of herbs, saints, and memories enfolds me and connects me to the Mexico of her youth and of my grandparents. She has a sense of humor about life but her face bears witness to tragedies endured. At times her pain seem unbearable to her and she places her hand over her heart and cries. In this work the crescent moon at the bottom of the painting represents Guadalupe, the hearts and hand represents Mesoamerican goddess Coatlicue, and the cross represents Catholic iconography. The depiction of all these elements in a single painting parallels the Chicano/a experience of self-reincarnation informed by multiple worldviews.

In this painting I am also paying homage to the influence of Guadalupe. The formal organization of this painting is influenced by some work by Chicano artist César Martínez.


Religious Syncretism: Coatlicue, Guadalupe and Angela

My painting Religious Syncretism: Coatlicue, Guadalupe and Angela best reflects my concept of the cultural convergence that forms the Chicano/a identity. In this painting I have fused together three elements. The first is the image of my daughter Angela at twelve years of age and on the precipice between childhood and becoming a woman. Coexisting with Angela is a Mesoamerican element, Coatlicue, the Aztec goddess of the earth and mother of both gods and men, and a syncretic image, the Virgen de Guadalupe, Mexico's patron saint, whose origins are associated with the Aztec goddess Tonantzin. These three elements coalesce into a single image. The merging of the three elements echoes the religious fusion in 16th century Mesoamerica as well as the formation of a Chicano/a identity.

My influences for this work are 16th century religious syncretism in Mesoamerica, Guadalupe because she too is a syncretic image, Catholicism, and the continuing struggle of Chicanos/as to create a ethnic identity. By depicting the image of Guadalupe in this painting and others, I am paying homage to the powerful influence she has had on my life and work. Also influencing this work has been the "Guadalupe Series" by Chicana artist Yolanda Lopez.