Nuestra Senora de la merced en la frontera
(Our Lady of mercy at the border)
mixed media sculpture
leather, vintage fabrics,trims and laces, glass seed beads, human hair, metals, found wood pieces
Feast day: 12 Diciembre
It occurred to me that the European Our Lady of Mercy was needed at the Mexican/United States border though she should appear in the guise of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. As in her European depiction, Our Lady would spread her mantle wide open in a gesture of protection.
Now for a bit of history.
The "Cloak of Protection", a legal term, dates back to the Middle Ages. This term referred to giving protection and asylum to people in need of succor and to those being persecuted.
In the 13th century an image of Our Lady evolved from this legal term. Our Lady's new 'job' became "Virgin of Mercy". Within the Dominican and Cisterian orders this depiction prevailed. Mary stands with outstretched arms, mantle widespread acting as a shield for the souls kneeling below.
An Order of Mercy was established in the 13th century with its own unique scapular design. Two typical attributes of the "Virgin of Mercy" are this scapular worn in the usual fashion or held in her hand and the crown worn upon OUr Lady's head signifying her as Queen of Heaven.
Our Lady's 'job' followed her to the New World. Portraits painted by the School of Cuzco ( an indigenous art guild in Peru) are in existence.
In 1531 Our Lady accepted a New World 'job' when she appeared to a humble Aztec peasant, Juan Diego. Her thoughtful guise was as a person of his own background and she spoke in Juan's familiar tongue. Mary's new title became Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. This image is much adored and venerated in Mexico.
Then, in 1999, Pope John Paul II augmented Our Lady's assignment to encompass a greater land mass. her new title, "Our Lady of the Americas".
In my portrayal of Our Lady's ever evolving attire, the lining of her mantle is constructed of blue chambray fabric. The fabric of the working man's shirt. Sewn to this chambray lining are crosses commemorating the deaths of our American ( with a big A) brethren. These memorial crosses shall remind the viewer of the murdered women of Juarez and of the innocent ninos caught in a scenario not of their choosing. Our Lady's stern countenance might cause the viewer to reflect on the 'fence' which in my depiction she has bent into an arch or doorway.
To gain knowledge of this tragedy at our southern border, please add to your research, dear reader, any books that Luis Alberto Urrea has written on the subject. His first hand research will enrich your own meditations.
May I suggest: The Devil's Highway
Across the Wire: Life and Hard Times on the Mexican Border
By the Lake of Sleeping Children
and one by Diana Washington Valdez: The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women