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Santas: The Feminine Divine Carol Lopez | UTRGV Center for Latin American Arts

Since the establishment of the Spanish viceroyalties, the state courts along with religion, and daily living were dominated by the Catholic faith. In the process of conversion after the conquest, the Catholic Church produced religious artworks including venerations to Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Saints, and Angels. Colonists were subject to devotions, and women were specifically encouraged to devote and emulate their lives after the example set by the Virgin Mary and female saints.

Catholics in Viceregal Latin America had many ways to demonstrate their devotions to holy figures, such as setting aside pesos for capital funds to support the Church in honor of their patron saint. These Santas included: The Virgin of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Sorrow, the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Remedies, St. Claire, St. Theresa, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Veronica, St. Rita, St. Rose of Lima, and St. Ignacia.

Sacred rituals in colonial Latin America were infused with spirituality and ancient American as well as Catholic devotions. New Spain and Peru developed visual iconographies that embodied the interactions of European and indigenous traditions. It gave a way for the people to express themselves through objects, images, and rituals to the divine.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is a cultural and religious symbol of Mexico, signifying grace, perfection, virtue, and mestizaje (mixing). This small wooden retablo (altar) displays the Guadalupe adorned with cacti and painted flourishes in the popular vernacular style.

Artist Unknown, Our Lady of Guadalupe, wooden retablo with ceramic figurine, Peruvian. Gift of Carolyn Warmbold 2017.01.075

The “Militant Santa” once belonged to an abandoned Catholic Church near Porto Alegre, Brazil and was used for public veneration and ritual.

Artist Unknown, Militant Female Santa, wood/paint carved figurine, Brazilian. Gift of Mary Hunter 2005.05.004

This figurine embodies 16 century Baroque naturalism made evident by the flowing drapery and Contrapposto (asymmetrical/s-shaped) stance. A silver crown was later added by the donor.

Artist Unknown, Militant Female Santa, wood/paint carved figurine, Brazilian. Gift of Mary Hunter 2005.05.004
Artist Unknown, Militant Female Santa, wood/paint carved figurine, Brazilian. Gift of Mary Hunter 2005.05.004

“La Virgen de la Soledad” (The Virgin of Solitude) was a Spanish devotion and the patroness of the bereaved, consolation, happy death, and fight against loneliness.

Antonio Garcia, Virgen de Soledad, painted clay, Mexican. 1983.11.111

Her devotion spread to colonial Latin America, including present-day Oaxaca, Mexico, as shown in this Baroque styled sculpture by artist Antonio Garcia.

This Baroque wooden carving of the triangular Virgin is decorated with metal Milagros (miracles), which are small metal charms depicting healed body parts, animals, and various symbols of the faith. Devotees often decorated religious images with Milagros to indicate answered prayers and healing, as depicted by artist Lupita Hecht.

Lupita Hecht, Virgin with Milagros, wood and metal, Mexican. 2017.01.042

Crosses were and are crucial elements for both public and private altars, often accompanying statues of the Virgin, saints, and angels. This crucifix is covered with “Milagros” (miracles) of various symbols such as eyes, hearts, and sheep, as acts of commemorative devotion and adornment.

Lupita Hecht, Untitled, wood and metal, Mexican. 2017.01.001

Santas: The Feminine Divine

Carol Lopez | UTRGV Center for Latin American Arts

All artwork featured in this exhibition is part of the International Museum of Art & Science Permanent Collection. Unless otherwise stated, Copyright of the artwork is the exclusive property of the artist. No reproductions may be made from this website for commercial use for any reason without written permission from the Copyright owner.

Bibliography

1. LARKIN, BRIAN R. “Beyond Guadalupe: The Eucharist, the Cult of Saints, and Local Religion in Eighteenth-Century Mexico City.” Catholic Historical Review 104, no. 2 (Spring 2018): 223–267.2. Salinas, Rosario Inés Granados. "Mexico City's Symbolic Geography: The Processions of Our Lady of Remedios." Journal of Latin American Geography 11 (2012): 145-73

2. Salinas, Rosario Inés Granados. "Mexico City's Symbolic Geography: The Processions of Our Lady of Remedios." Journal of Latin American Geography 11 (2012): 145-73

3. Javier Dominguez Rodriguez, De Apostol Matamoros a Yllapa Mataindios: Dogmas e Ideologias Medievales en el (Des)cubrimiento de America (Salamanca, 2008).

4. Leibsohn, Dana, and Barbara E. Mundy, Vistas: Visual Culture in Spanish America, 1520-1820