An homenaje to all things wondrous and wild this time of year in our corner of the world --loosely inspired by a local folktale of the disobedient young lady seduced by the devil at a community dance. Smitten, she becomes transparent beneath his gaze. His appearance crosses centuries - skull face and long warrior hair under a classic fedora hat and flashy 40's suit.
The scene is the iconic historical shrine, El Tiradito (The Castaway) - often regarded as the heartbeat of Tucson, decorated for El Dia de los Muertos.
Ancient deities rule... shining through the moon. But La Virgen de Guadalupe lives on... here on a ball cap that could have been left by a thankful border-crosser. (When one becomes aware of La Virgen, one notices she is everywhere.)
As an afterthought I added a curious little dog, just following the trail of marigold petals...
A fresh look at La Llorona - the Weeping Woman
The Legend of La Llorona is one of the oldest in the Americas, and there are countless versions of her legend but HERE is a good place to start. Most Latino kids know her as the witch their Mamas warn them about that lives in the arroyos looking for wayward children to eat. The larger legend is the one that she is the eternally damned murderous woman archetype that females the world over labor under.
The interpretation that resonates with me is the one by Mexican 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 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 … La 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 as a slave to Hernan Cortes because of her linguistic skills as a translator, has been painted as a traitor to ‘her people’. This archaic, 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."
La Malinche and La Llorona become one after the former is chosen, used as chattel, then cast out along with her undesirable children. Honestly: what options do the untold millions of modern-day pariahs like La Malinche/La Llorona and their children have?
She carries it all... for all of us.
My interpretation brings a little redemption to this, just one of the many maligned female archetypes in global mythologies.
I place La Llorona along the Santa Cruz River, somewhere south of Tubac. She is framed by mesquite trees and and has lost most of her hair. Her hand has delicate fingers rather than long, gruesome claws. And she is terribly, terribly weary. She is surrounded by a troop of Monarch butterflies on their way to their winter roost in Mexico. They are spirits of children who visit her every year to comfort her on their journey south. I put tiny eyes on the butterflies and colorful spots on their bodies to make them special. 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 my signature petroglyph boulder alluding to the timelessness of the land.
This may be the last in my series honoring asylum seekers for a while. It is an intimate capture of the bond between parent and child. The process of painting the mother revealed the ancient classic Maya bone structure of her face. What timeless beauty. I wonder if they are still alive and together. This administration will go down in history for its crimes against humanity.
I must say here that this brutal saga of America's asylum seekers really struck a nerve. When stories started coming out about what "Zero-Tolerance" was doing to families, children, even babies, I absolutely could not stand it.
I was still recovering from surgery but was determined to DO SOMETHING... ANYTHING. When the plumbing collapsed at the old Benedictine Monastery (Tucson's primary migrant shelter), a dozen porta-johns were brought in and volunteers built outdoor showers from pallets, tarps, and PVC pipes. Plumber's daughter that I am, I and another lovely Catholic lady cleaned all of them daily, and continued to do so until the Casa Alitas Program relocated to their new location farther south. The asylum seekers were conscientious, and always offering to help me. The physical duresses they suffered were evident in what I cleaned and it was heart-wrenching. No innocent people, especially children and babies should be treated like this by the United States of America. These refugees, and the countless migrants before them are the ones who have cleaned OUR toilets and worse, in the shadows, for generations for Christ's sake. What is God's name is wrong with us? There were days it was so overwhelming I'd dissolve in my car before I could leave.
When that job went away, there were plenty of volunteers and I felt compelled to do something to lift up the humanity of these remarkable "throw-away" people who had suffered so much and come so far. That need gave birth to this series of artworks.
This may be my favorite image of border-crossers. I wanted to paint this couple because I think they are utterly captivating. It's not a new image and has been hanging around on my computer for years. I pray they are both doing well.
Via the photographer:
"Flor Garcia, 19, of Honduras, holding her one-year-old daughter, Flor Fernandez turned themselves over to CBP after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico near McAllen, Texas, on Thursday, July 3, 2014."
Photo: Rodolfo Gonzalez/AP
The twelfth soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border (and hopefully my last, at least for a while):
Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle, Age 10
Of El Salvador
Died Sept. 29, 2018 of heart complications,
Darlyn was encountered by Border Patrol on March 1, 2018, a few miles west of Hidalgo, Texas. She complained of chest pain and three days later, was transferred to HHS custody where she remained for about seven months. Darlyn was treated for a congenital heart defect at various hospitals -- including in San Antonio, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona.
HHS spokesperson Mark Weber told CNN Darlyn had surgery complications that left her in a comatose state. She was transported to a nursing facility in Phoenix and later to Children's Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, where she died on September 29, due to fever and respiratory distress.
Darlyn was traveling to the US to find her mom, who had migrated from El Salvador to work and provide for her three daughters nine years earlier. She hoped to be reunited with her mother in Nebraska. Her mother asked that Darlyn be released to her care. The government refused.
Her body was returned to El Salvador.
Darlyn's story HERE.
A blog of inspirations, interpretations-- things that move me in this corner of the universe where I'm planted.