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 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
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.
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
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.