Who shot La Miguelito has in its performance a key symbol that is displayed throughout the play. La Virgen de Guadalupe, a figure of enormous cultural significance to Hispanic culture and throughout much of Mexico. The scene in particular revolves around three characters. Margarita, Eclectic and the mural of Guadalupe. Margarita, being the mother of Miguelito, is suffering tremendous heartbreak over the death of her child.
The scene begins with Margarita walking around the park where her mural of Guadalupe is displayed. In this scenes she monologues to her Mural her emotions and resentment over Guadalupes betrayal. The depth of her sorrows is in full display, she resents the lady for not protecting her child and wonders what was all the devotion and murals for if the did not serve to protect anyone. Driven to extremes of bitterness and heartbreak, she pulls a pistol from her purse and aims it at her head. At this moment, seeing the glistening of metal, it strikes me as the most powerful scene.
The pain Margarita is so intense, the scenery only adds to the power. The way she stares defiantly into the mural and with fierce convictions. Just as Margarita is about to end it all, in comes Eclectic stumbling in with her bag of paints. Startled, Margarita conceals the weapon and pretends to act casual. A stark contrast from fierce and deadly intent to suddenly sheepish cowardice like a child hiding forbidden sweets. Eclectic notices Margarita and she too attempts to conceal her bag. Both now realizing the awkward situation attempt to small talk and conceal their true intentions. The conversation drifts to the topic of the mural, Eclectic oblivious to the significance of Guadalupe and does not recognize the artist stands beside her, complains about all of the Madonnas that populate the city. After all, why can’t Eclectic have her own wall? Eclectic is a naive fan-girl of Miguelito, hopelessly in love with the idea of Miguelito. She almost angers the viewer. Her narcissistic and childish desire to paint over sacred murals is disrespectful. Yet Margarita lets Eclectic have her wish to have her own mural and in her resentment towards Guadalupe takes a can from Eclectic to make the first new mark on the mural. At this moment the hatred is capture much more intensely. Instead of killing herself, she kills her mural.
In the play Who shot la Miguelito, the image of the Virgin de Guadalupe is repeatedly used. What is the gesture of Guadalupe mean in terms of the cultural identity of the land and how is that image of a divine woman been used over the centuries to define the many Americas?
The object of study that captivated me the most was the symbolic nature of Guadalupe. Her character is deeply embedded in Hispanic culture and Hispanic culture is deeply interconnected with America, She is a figure who is derived and changed over the centuries as competing ideas of who America is has changed. In particular, I want to analyze the scene and gestures of Margarita, Miguelitos mother, who erases her own works.
I want to argue that Guadalupe is an identity that has been redefined over the centuries just as America has been redefined. She is a character that has been ever changing just as the culture, lands, and the identities of the people who’ve come to define America has changed. A good starting point would be to analyze native tribes and their depictions of a divine woman, imagery of Manifest Destiny and how it used a divine woman, how it was transformed by the Catholic church and finally the prolific imagery of Guadalupe in Chicano culture.
I plan to research imagery used to depict Manifest Destiny to understand what the image of angel meant in terms of divine rights to conquer America. I have attended the play, Who shot la Miguelito, and will be using that to understand what the relationship meant to Margarita and analyze the cultural significance. I will research the story of Juan Diego and the impact of Guadalupe on the sacred lands of indigenous peoples.
America is an ever changing battleground of ideas. The ideas manifest in the performances of the cultures, the people, the symbolism and the land. From the native people who occupied the land, to the colonial expansion of Europeans, to the present day, America is not singular, but rather a plurality. Through every iteration, the symbols are adapted, erased, or replaced. Who shot La Miguelito, a play of a child murdered in the streets of San Francisco, brings to life the many conflicts of marginalized groups, their displacement of their homes and their cultural identity. The gesture that dominates the play, and through which America will be analyzed, is of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The divine woman who protects over Mexico, the woman loved and adored by many in the Hispanic community. This gesture is a performance played out through centuries, reimagined from culture to culture, defining the land and the people who inhabit it. How did this divine figure define the relationship of the people to the land that is America? How does this figure represent the many competing ideas of what America should be?
To provide context and specifics of the symbol let's take a look at a memorable moment from the play. A particular moment in the play that carries with it much significance is of La Miguelito, Margarita, Eklektic, and a mural of Guadalupe. It begins with La Miguelito monologuing and behind is Margarita, the mother. Two very different tones are emitted from both characters. La Miguelito is in trance, almost prayer, talking about sentimentally good things “Me. I seen faith. I seen love. I seen home.” and as La Miguelito fades away, Margarita comes forward.
Margarita changes the tone to aggression, declaring war on Guadalupe saying, “Guerra. Entre tu y yo no hay paz. War, Vieja.” . In the following moments, Margarita faces the mural of Guadalupe with a gun to her head, Ready to pull the trigger, she is startled by Eklectik. Together they converse, unaware of the ties that unite them. The scene concludes with an agreement between them, they both dislike the mural of Guadalupe. The final act is for Margarita to grab a can of paint and desecrate the mural by whiting out her presence. This gesture of erasure, covering up a painting with major cultural significance inspired this essay to dive into this moment and how it has played out on a larger scale.
America begins with the tribes of the first occupants. The divine woman of the Aztec empire was Tonantzin. Though the origins and history are largely a historical blur, it is understood that she was a goddess who presided over many aspects of life. Primarily, a goddess of the earth. The earth that gave sustenance by providing the food that they ate. Mestizo or the indigenous people of Mexico today would recognize Tonantzin as Coatlaxopeuh, close in pronunciation to Guadalupe. Coatlaxopeuh is another name for earth mother, the earth mother whose adherents would bring offerings at the hill of Tepeyac. This particular place will become important as the transition from Tonantzin to Guadalupe is realized. What does this divine woman say about the people who occupied America? The land is a sacred place, it provides for the people all that they could need. Food, shelter, water, earth mother provides for her children. The embodiment of the physical earth is personified in the divine figure. America is the mother that provides a bounty for her children. Beyond that, there is not dramatic or romantic abstract ideals of America beyond the humble reverence for the earth and what it gives. Tonantzin is America, the provider of nourishment.
American Progress is, perhaps, the most iconic imagery of early expansionist propaganda. This famous painting by John Gast captures within it all of the ideals of the expansionist movement. In the background, it can be seen the many innovations such as the railroad, powerlines, agriculture and infrastructure. While all the positive aspects are portrayed on the right of the image, the left hand side displays the expulsion of Native Americans as they are pushed out by the mobs of settlers. Interestingly, it can also be seen in the gradient of light, how as settlers move forward, the background lights up, as if to say they are bringing light to the darkness of America. Most importantly, however, the middle of the image displays an angelic creature, Columbia, the embodiment of America. Now there are two divine figures, Tonantzin and Columbia, each representing America from two different perspectives. Inspired by the tradition of giving countries a specific goddess, America was given Columbia. This divine woman represented freedom, liberty, and new hope for the country. Columbia is America, the land of the free.
The story of Juan Diego and the hill of Tepeyac is the origin story of Guadalupe. As the events are told, Juan Diego was a poor man who had apparitions from Guadalupe. After repeated apparitions, Juan was instructed to contact the bishop to build a church in her honor. Only after a miracle of Guadalupe's image being imprinted on Juan Diego’s cloak, was the church built. However, the site was a sacred place for many of the Aztec people. After the colonization of the Spanish, the Catholic church adopted and transformed the land making into a Christianized symbol. The symbolism of earth mother was adopted and many aspects of the divine figure are preserved in Guadalupe. Take, for example, the nahuatl name Coatlaxopeuh which sounds a lot like Coatlaxopeuh. Although the identity and persona of Tonantzin, Coatlaxopeuh, is masked over with a new version, she maintains her sacredness and has taken on a new identity. Chicano culture is that of a nested story of immigrants finding a new home, building an identity. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the face of that identity. San Francisco is a home for that identity. The image of Guadalupe is found everywhere, painted in murals, candles lit on the streets to remember the dead and in the homes of many. Guadalupe is America, the mother and protector of immigrants.