A fresh look at La Llorona - the Weeping Woman
Nobel prize-winner, Octavio Paz. In his 1950 essay, The Labyrinth of Solitude, Paz describes La Llorona as ‘one of the Mexican representations of Maternity’ and, as such, she is presented as a symbol of Mexican identity. This identity, according to Paz, revolves around Mexicans’ view of themselves as hijos de la Chingada. Paz explains that: ‘The verb [chingar] denotes violence, an emergence from oneself to penetrate another by force … The Chingada is the Mother forcibly opened, violated or deceived. The hijo de la Chingada is the offspring of violation, abduction or deceit.’ This violation is the Conquest, the quintessential symbol of which is La Malinche, or Doña Marina, who despite having been sold into slavery and given to the conquistadors – and therefore having limited agency of her own – has been painted as a traitor to ‘her people’. This anachronistic and highly misogynistic view that lays the blame for the defeat of a civilization at the feet of one (disenfranchised) woman has remained popular to this day. Indeed, Paz himself states that ‘the Mexican people have not forgiven La Malinche for her betrayal’.
I place La Llorona along the Santa Cruz River, somewhere south of Tubac. No saguaros here - she is framed by mesquite trees instead. I figure by now she's lost most of her hair. And she must be terribly, terribly weary. I put tiny eyes on the butterflies and colorful spots on their bodies to make them special. (Slightly Disney-esk possibly, oh well.) I always incorporate owls into my paintings where the veil between the worlds are thin. It is a guardian keeping watch over the ephemeral scene. Owls are sacred birds in many cultures and I adore them.
I include also a boulder with a petroglyph on it, alluding to the timelessness of the land.