In many spiritual traditions, elaborately decorated boxes such as coffers,
reliquaries, or portable shrines are often used to contain sacred objects
in a small, enclosed space. Cajitas—which means small boxes (also called
nichos)—continue to exemplify this deep-seated tradition as a devotional
art form among Hispanic Catholics throughout Latin America and the U.S. Southwest.
The cajitas I create are inspired by this traditional art form in general
and draw upon the richness of imagery and symbols that I grew up with as a
Chicano-Mexicano. The iconography conveys the deep-seated religiosity inherent
in Mexican culture, cultural (re)adaptations and fusions, and the profound
impact and importance of the everyday “mystical” experience.
The presence of a shrine box in the home intentionally creates a sacred space
reserved for ritual and devotional purposes. It serves as an “altarcito”
(small altar area) where one may contemplate the sacred verities of life and
through prayer and meditation enter into a deeper communion with one’s
Self. The concept of altar presupposes that candles are to be lit, incense
burned, flowers offered and thanksgiving made before the shrine.
The objective of the portable shrine is to allow its magic to transform the
worshipper in such a way that one’s heart becomes the true shrine which
radiates divine love and spiritual joy to all with whom one comes into contact.
Ordinary life thus becomes something in which every moment is magical and
every space becomes an opportunity for a transcendental encounter.