Alma Lopez y su Virgen

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Born in Mexico and raised in East Los Angeles, Alma Lopez had the Latina/o community in controversy with her photo based collage named “Our Lady”. There has been so much dispute about the meaning of the piece that the Catholic Church even attempted censoring it.

Lopez, the central figure, stands proudly, showing various parts of her body, only her chest and crotch are covered by flowers. Her veil resembles that of La Virgen de Guadalupe’s but instead is decorated with the image of Coyolxauhqui, an Aztec goddess often associated with the Chicana movement. The angel at the bottom is another woman depicted with her bare chest.

The controversy is no surprise. Often seeing women as submissive and as people without sexualities, this piece defies the traditional Latino/a image because it depicts a female as confident and unashamed.  She stands half naked and is proud of her body. It is almost a sense of liberation, a statement of identity where this female is no longer conforming to the traditional roles she has been taught, but challenging them.

Coming from a Mexican background and being culturally Catholic, I must admit that parts of this piece make me uncomfortable. The image projects La Virgen in a sexually empowered manner in which I would never have imagined her before. Lopez, as stated before, stands as a confident woman unashamed of her body which brings up many questions regarding my personal relationship with body image and its meaning  in a euro-centric society.  However, the feeling of uncomfort can be a good thing, a sign of socially constructed images and meanings being deconstructed.

Lopez powerfully comments on culture, while bringing into center stage identities, such as gender and sexuality, that are usually sub-narratives.

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