| The Heath Anthology of
American Literature, Fifth Edition
Virgin of Guadalupe in 1531
Tradition has it that a miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary
took place near Mexico City in 1531, as the text in the Heath Anthology relates. The Virgin
of Guadalupe is a syncretic religious figure. She represents a particular form
of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, and as such she mediates between
humans and God the Father. She is the symbolic mother of all Catholics. At the
same time, her brown skin and Indian features make her a Native American Virgin
Mother. In addition, she appeared to a poor Indian. Finally, her apparition was
on a sacred site traditionally associated with a female Indian god of fertility,
Tonantzin. For centuries she has been the image of miscegenation incarnate, the
blending of Spanish and Indian worlds.
In the eighteenth
century, when American independence movements were stirring throughout the
colonies, Mexican nationalists turned the Virgin of Guadalupe into an image of
cultural and political nationalism. Her image became the standard of a war of
independence, and the miscegenation of Spanish and Indian was deemphasized in
favor of an image of New World hybridity, the mestizo. While she
competes regionally with other forms of the Virgin, like Our Lady of Conquest
in New Mexico or La Virgin de San Juan in Texas, Guadalupe has become a central
icon of Mexican American culture. Her image appears in statues on home altars,
painted in murals on the side of buildings, tattooed on biceps and etched into
windows of low-rider, customized automobiles. Her image serves many different
functions, from religious to political, turning up in churches, picket lines,
and Chicano literature. She is generally associated with the struggle for civil
rights, although her symbol cannot be divorced from traditional values of
Catholicism, women, and the family.
New Mexico State University
In the Heath Anthology
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Richard Dorson, "Foreword," in Folktales of Mexico, ed. and trans. Americo Paredes, 1970
Ramon Gutierrez, When Jesus Came, the Corn Mother Went Away, 1991
Eric Wolf, "The Virgin of Guadalupe: A Mexican National Symbol," Journal of American Folklore, 71 (1958): pp. 34-39