March 26, 2001

Subject: Icon in a flower bikini
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 10:47:10 -0500
From: Ana Cristan <>
Organization: Library of Congress
To: almalopez@earthlink.netDear Ms. Lopez,

I recently went to Mexico City and in the local newspaper "Reforma" I saw an article referring to an art exhibit in an Albuquerque Museum where I think they mention you have a piece of art (I'm not sure if it's a painting, sketch, etc.) which is described as the "artist in the traditional "Virgen de Guadalupe" pose but instead of being clothed in the traditional garments the artist is depicted wearing a bikini woven from roses.

My question is, is this your work and do you have reproductions of this work (posters, postcards, t-shirts, etc.) I would love to have a copy of this as I find it "muy padre" and very "nueva-latina" While I do vernerate the concept of the Virgin I also appreciate the cleverness and wit of viewing it as simply an icon which can be used for expression by artists like yourself.

Any help you can give me on this account I will be most appreciated.

Ana Cristan


Subject: Re: [AztlanNet] [Fwd: Cyber Arte - Please help]
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 07:59:47 -0800
From: "cycocat3" <>
To: <>
References: 1

Alma, for whatever it's worth, I like it. You may recall the incident with Jennifer Lopez and her movie, The Cell. The Catholic church went into an uproar because she looked a lot like a Madonna in one of her costumes. I saw her instead as a symbol of Good on her way to fight the Evil comatose serial killer. No matter what you do, you're going to ruffle a lot of clerical collars whenever you attempt to alter any of their revered icons in such a way that they deem offensive. All I can say is sell it to the highest bidder and let it go. You sure as hell don't want a religious fanatic on your case. People have been murdered for a lot less.


Subject: Re: Cyber Arte - Please help
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 11:17:22 EST
To: almalopez@earthlink.netHola Alma,

Just a note of support and to offer another perspective. In my past experience as a curator of Dia De Los Muertos exhibits and events, I came across a very biased man who wanted to sue the City of Los Angeles for 'using tax-payers' money to fund a religious event'. I took the time to speak with this man directly and explained to him that in the United States the separation of Church and State is very clearly defined. This separation does not exist in Latin America.

In our community images of La Virgin, San Judas Tadeo, even Jesus Cristo himself have been cultural icons for decades. I wonder if there exist 'less than appropriate' representations of these icons in gardens, stores, jewelry, clothing or even dishes in Santa Fe? I wouldn't be surprised. How would Mr. Villegas explain the usage in this case?

Being cultural icons, these images allow themselves to be interpreted by a cultural people not a person. These icons do belong to everyone and no one. It is important to recognize the reality of our history, our presence and our future. Alma, what you are creating only represents who we are, using who we were as a culture. I commend you for your vision and applaud the Museum for recognizing that your art has meaning, history and cultural significance supporting it and should not defined as purely religious.

Please receive my total support and admiration for your work and conviction.

Sincerely and Respectfully,
Consuelo Flores

Subject: Our Lady
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 11:46:49 EST

Ms. Lopez:

I support your individuality and applaud your ingenuity. Art is art and you have a right to express it exactly as it was conceived. There will always be those who do not agree nor understand the creative process nor the interpretation which is totally subjective.

Some time ago, I came across a piece which was a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe made of 'yeso,' you know, the kind they sell at the border crossings, well, the artist displayed this piece with hundreds of 'used' stickers on it..... Many were offended, some were outraged, but many more gave it a different and deeper meaning. So it is ... so it will always be.

Adelante con tu Arte!!!

Con aprecio,

Subject: Re: Cyber Arte - Please help
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 08:49:28 -0800 (PST)
From: Maria Herrera Sobek <>
To: Alma Lopez <>

Dear Alma,

I am in total support of your right to exhibit your work and am absolutely against the negative actions of the individuals who are protesting your wonderful work. Please be aware that many of us admire your work and support your creative spirit.


Maria Herrera-Sobek


Subject: Our Virgen
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 12:18:32 EST

Mr. Villegas,

When you deny an Artist the right to portray the Virgen as a Chicana it is if you are saying she is not one of us. Our embrace and identification with her is important in recognizing her true purpose. When she appeared before Juan Diego it was to show empathy for those who had been disenfranchised and were not recognized as people with spiritual contributions (the indegenious). The Chicano/as here experience so much of the same, not being able to claim the Mexican Heritage or American Heritage.

The Virgen stands symbolic to our community and as such have every right to express this in our work. Your action echos the very opposite of what her very appearance means, and as such truly is a disservice to her meaning and message. Your use of this issue is fascist and in appropriate. Taking up a Nationalist approach which seeks to divide us instead of unite us. I picketed for the farm Workers in 1969 and continue to support the issues that the movemiento brought to our consciousness. We revevere the Virgen as much as the Chicano/as in New Mexico.

A Chicana from East Los Angeles.

Margaret Garcia


Subject: a message from san antonio...
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 17:25:00
From: "frances trevino" <>

hello! my name is frances trevino and i am on the calaca press mailing list and you're work is incredible! i'm completely blown away! i am a writer, poet, and teacher in san antonio, tx. i'll be sending you a cashier's check soon for a t-shirt, i'll include extra for postage and handling and i would be interested in purchasing a print as well. girl - you rock! i am devoted to both la virgen de guadalupe and la virgen san juan de los lagos and you're interpretations make positive statements about the strength, controversial dual standard, and multi dimensional roles of women. if you're ever in san antonio, the first round is on me.

respect -
frances trevino
in san antonio


Re: Cyber Arte - Please help
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 09:59:35 -0800
From: elizabeth Kessler <>
To: <>

Dear Alma,

I am so sorry that this is happening to your work. I will announce this to my Chicana Lit class tonight and encourage them to write to support you and your art. I have recently written an article in which I discuss your other controversial work--La Virgen y La Serena. I actually don't know the name
of the work, but that's what I call it. The discussion is actually part of a larger view on homophobia. Would you like me to send it to you? I hope all works out well for your right to interpret Mary as you see fit.
I will do all I can to encourage others to support you.

Elizabeth Rodriguez Kessler
Assistant Professor
Department of English
California State University


Subject: response to the Virgen
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 10:06:50 -0800
From: Sergio Hernandez <>
Organization: Indian Oak Graphics

Dear Mr. Villegas,

Your response to Ms. Lopez's interpretation of the Vigen is very much like a observation I recently read, "People that are very eager to tell you about their religion are almost never willing to listen to you about your religion"........You are not willing to accept Ms. Lopez's interpretation of the Virgen. I looked at her work and I do not find it offensive or sacrilegious. What I do find offensive are the many criminals that Tattoo their bodies with images of the "Virgen" and Christ on the Cross and commit heinous crimes against society. If you have the Virgen in your heart what does it matter how the Virgen is portrayed......................................Sergio Hernandez, Artist


Subject: Art and artists' rights
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 10:32:46 -0800
From: KarenMary Davalos <>

I support the right of the artist to create without censorship and I support the creativity and courage of curators and museums that aim to exhibit all types of works and subjects. Do not censor Alma Lopez.

As a cultural critic and collector of Chicano art, I recognize the cultural, spiritual, and creative value of Alma Lopez's work.

KarenMary Davalos
Chicana/o Studies Dept.
Loyola Marymount University
Los Angeles, CA


Subject: Keep "La Virgen" On Display
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 11:34:50 -0700
From: Catalina Reyes

I am a New Mexico resident and journalist -- baptized Catholic at birth. I have also been a photographic artist whose work has been exhibited to the public. I urge you not to cave in to religious extremists who cannot see the beauty in Alma Lopez's "La Virgen," now on display at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe.

In the recent past, La Virgen de Guadlupe has been portrayed in art exhibitions as a seamstress, as a marathon runner, and as a kung-fu fighter. It disturbs me greatly that it's only when she is portrayed in a way that associates her with sensuality and nature -- and with the sensuality of women in particular -- that the portrayal is being labeled "blasphemous." It is hardly that. If anything, this portrayal is one of spiritual insight.

In the end, however, my opinions on what appears to be the blindness of conservative zealots demanding removal of Alma Lopez's artwork, are not so relevant as the fact that as an arts institution, the Museum of International Folk Art ought to stand firm in upholding not just its right, but its obligation, to present art which represents cultural expression in this day and in all times. Please issue a statement of support for Alma Lopez, a gifted artist who has captured an eloquent expression of nuestras contemporary almas chicanas (our souls) in her work, "La Virgen." And please continue to retain "La Virgen" in the Cyber Arte exhibit.

Please include this letter of support in whatever use is appropriate. I will be happy to speak or correspond with anyone who would like to confirm or make use of my support for "La Virgen" and Alma Lopez, should that be necessary.

Most sincerely,
Catalina Reyes


Subject: Our Lady
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 12:21:51 -0700
From: "Tracy E. Bailey" <>
To: almalopez@earthlink.netDear Alma

I think that your work is beautiful. I love your piece Our Lady, which I saw at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, and was deeply moved by it. I am sorry that some people have taken offense and hope that you aren't depressed by their reaction. Unfortunately, it seems that most people are ignorant of the creative process and what it means to be an artist. They don't understand that as artists, we are trying to communicate our ideas and emotions through our work. I tell myself that that must be the reason that people make such baseless judgments about artwork and artists.

Keep up your incredible work.

Tracy Bailey


Subject: Re: [AztlanNet] [Fwd: Cyber Arte - Please help]
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 10:30:39 -0800
From: Sergio Hernandez <>
Organization: L.A.COUNTY
References: 1


Dear Alma, stick to your guns, I wrote a letter of support that you can forward to Mr. Villegas. Several years ago when my wife was teaching a class she made the statement that "some people" say the legend of the Virgen appearing on the Mount where Tonantzin the earth goddess was worshipped was an attempt by the "Church" to placate the local tribes and make Catholicism more palatable to the Aztecs.......Well you can imagine to furor that statement caused, ......some students didn't want to hear that. In a state that still practices the "Penitentes" you can imagine that you can get some pretty intense people.........Serg

Subject: Art!!!
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 11:35:43 -0800
From: "Beth Chayim Chadashim" <>
To: "Alma Lopez" <>

Hey girlfriend--I think this is all so wonderful. I mean--this all has to be dialogued/come to a head-- the virgen stuff, that is. What you are saying is perfect (i.e., that she's your virgen too). I emailed everyone on my list about this and I'm going to write to 'the powers that be' in support of you.

I guess what's the most scary to me is this whole censorship of art (Christian McCarthy-ism). I find it so ridiculous that the same system (the church) that has enslaved us with self-hate and an out dated moral code, still has so much control over our humanity towards each other.

Well, be strong, you have many friends on your side. Te vas hacer famosa!

Love, Victoria


Subject: q-pasa c-la raza?
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 21:30:04 -0000
From: "cOfFeE dOnUtS" <>

hey there alma,
i think your work is interesting , too bad some people take it too much to the heart,hehehe.but oh well just like the say we have freedom of speech but what about freedom of art??? iwas born catholic ,but then growing up i started questioning religion and became atheist. ihave a drawing that i did of jesus and the diablo wrestling on a wrestling ring. withaudience being the pope and his gang of monks also pimps and prostitutes and etc... butthis made some of my family not wanting to talk to me even some friends. i respect peoplesdecisions in what they believe.  i believe in having faith. which helps individuals keep goingthrough life, by having faith and believing in a statue or a symbol. but what about havingfaith or believing in yourself... a statue or a symbol does'nt get u a car or materials orwhatever they want. we get it ourselves, buy hustling or working same thing.

sorry for the long message, and keep up the good  work.            

el capricho


Subject: Support THIS Virgen
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 14:14:36 -0800
From: Adelina Anthony <>

To whom it may concern:

Que triste... some of our raza has so far to go! I am writing in support of Alma Lopez's work/interpretation of the Virgen. As an admirer of the barriers Alma is bringing down with her valid and beautiful work, I am hoping the museum and its staff will find the strength and dignity to back up our artista.

As a Xicana lesbiana, I am aware of our cultura's hypocrisy and conservatism which is compounded by religion. Art is sacred, not because some of it deals with religious themes, because it deals with our complex
humanity. Obviously, there are some Chicanos who would want to negate our queer existence... much like the patriarchal conquerors have tried to negate and exterminate the indigenous elements of our cultura.

If the art is so powerful that it provokes self-proclaimed righteousness on the behalf of Villegas and others like him... can it not provoke dialogue? Or are THEY not healthy enough to do this?Sinceramente,

Adelina Anthony
MACHA Theatre Co


Subject: la virgen artwork
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 14:22:22 -0800
From: "Susana L. Gallardo" <>
Organization: not much
CC: Alma Lopez <>,

Dear Mr. Villegas,

As a lifelong Catholic, a proud Mexican American, and a Chicana feminist, I am writing to beg you to reconsider your opposition to the artwork of Alma Lopez currently being displayed at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe.

Alma's work makes her faith and tradition real to her, and to many other women like myself. She should be applauded, not mocked, for her efforts to incorporate Catholic traditions and symbols into contemporary artwork.

The Catholic tradition is our cultura, nuestra corazon, for each and every one of us. Only because we love it, do we want to critique it, make it better, make it stronger. You don't have to like what we do, but you need to respect it. Please try to understand that.

Con todo respeto,
Susana Gallardo

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Susana L. Gallardo, Ph.D. abd
Religious Studies
Stanford University


Subject: Virgen artwork, Alma Lopez
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 14:23:26 -0800
From: "Susana L. Gallardo" <>
Organization: not much
CC: Alma Lopez <>

[Written letter mailed today, 3/26/01]

Susana L. Gallardo
Dept. of Religious Studies
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305

26 March 2001

Dr. Thomas Wilson, Director
Museum of New Mexico
P.O. Box 2087
Santa Fe, NM 87501

Dear Dr. Wilson,

I am writing to thank you for your continued support of Los Angeles Chicana artist Alma Lopez, among others, in the current show at the Museum of International Folk Art. I understand you have received a certain amount of protest to the exhibition, and I thank you for maintaining your support for the innovative and provocative work of the artists.

I am quite familiar with Ms. Lopez’ artwork, and the richness of expression she brings to both traditional and contemporary Chicana/o images and issues. From her public artwork on billboards and murals all over the L.A. area to her "digital" collections online, I find her artwork a unique contribution to an evolving Chicana feminist sensibility, with an altogether consistent and visionary spirituality.

I should also say that I am not at all surprised by some negative reaction to her portrayal of the Virgen de Guadalupe. Dismay and even anger are to be expected—indeed, may be crucial--in inviting viewers to think about the many layers of meaning latent in the Virgen’s image, and her ramifications for Chicana/o gender ideology as well as spirituality.

And as a scholar of Chicana/o and Religious Studies, I must point out that this is not the first time that Chicana artists seeking to reclaim and transform traditional religious imagery have been threatened and silenced. I’m sure you are familiar with the work of San Francisco Chicana artists Esther Hernandez and Yolanda Lopez, whose early work with the Virgen de Guadalupe received praise as well as various bomb threats, but is now widely recognized as a pivotal contribution to the Chicana and Chicano art "canon."

In closing, thank you again for your support of this amazing exhibition. Please do not hesitate to call if I can be of any assistance.

Susana L. Gallardo, Ph.D. abd

cc: Drs. Joyce Ice & Tey Marianna Nunn, Curators
Dr. Edson Way, Cultural Affairs
Ms. Alma Lopez c/o Tongues/VIVA


Subject: from MACLA in San Jose
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 15:11:08 -0800
From: "Maribel Alvarez" <>
To: <>

Alma --

I just received an email about the controversy in New Mexico....I am the Director of MACLA here in San Jose where we were priviledged to have your work included in the Gender, Genealogy show....I love your work- your de-construction of traditional icons and forms is very powerful...not since Ester Hernandez depicted the Virgen as a Karateca and Yolanda Lopez depicted her as a jogger (and that was 25 years ago) has an image of the Virgen been as powerfully re-contextualized as in your work......I will send letters of support as you requested, but if there is anything else I or MACLA can do to help, please let us know.


Subject: The exhibit.
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 17:02:00 -0700
From: "Trinidad Sánchez, Jr." <>
To: <>
CC: "Alma Lopez" <>

I have Recently become aware of the controversy regarding the recent exhibit of Alma Lopez. We have her art work in our living room because it is beautiful and because it challenges me and other to think outside the box.

There are more critical injustices in the world that people should become involved with instead of spending their time censoring art.

The government's rape against the poor, our involvement in the drug and providing arms to other countries are samples of the offensive vulgarity of the injustice that surrounds us and we need to be speaking against.

Alma is a critical artist for critical times. As an author and artist, I support her work and decry it being censored in any fashion, shape or form. I hope that in the end, she will be allowed to continue showing her art work.


Trinidad Sánchez, Jr..
Author: Why Am I So Brown?


Subject: a message from san antonio...
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 17:25:00
From: "frances trevino" <>

hello! my name is frances trevino and i am on the calaca press mailing list and you're work is incredible! i'm completely blown away! i am a writer, poet, and teacher in san antonio, tx. i'll be sending you a cashier's check soon for a t-shirt, i'll include extra for postage and handling and i would be interested in purchasing a print as well. girl - you rock! i am devoted to both la virgen de guadalupe and la virgen san juan de los lagos and you're interpretations make positive statements about the strength, controversial dual standard, and multi-dimensional roles of women. if you're ever in san antonio, the first round is on me.

respect -
frances trevino
in san antonio


Subject: Support Alma Lopez
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 16:26:30 -0800
From: Gabriela Rodriguez <>

Dear Mr. Wilson,

I am writing this letter in full support of Alma Lopez's "Our lady" remaining as part of the exhibit hosted by the the Museum of International Folk Art. The piece is a wonderful reclaiming of a Catholic cultural icon. The perspective taken by Alma Lopez is wonderful and inspiring. The image of the Virgen de Guadalupe has been use by many to subjugate and silence woman through out the ages.

Lopez's interpretation reworks the image to raise important cultural and political questions. The viewer has no choice but to question his or her assumption pertaining to the sacred and the profane, it does what all great art should do, elicit a reaction, forcing the audience confront long held notions. It would be unfortunate if the public was robbed of such an enlightening and sublime experience based on the over zealous belief of one individual. Mr. Villegas does not speak for the entire latino/a community and attempt at censorship should not be sanction in the guise of cultural integrity.

Personally, as a Chicana Catholic, I found nothing offensive from Alma Lopez's portrayal of "Our Lady".

Gabriela Rodriguez

Subject: Re: [AztlanNet] [Fwd: Cyber Arte - Please help]
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 17:29:27 -0800
From: Dorinda Moreno <>
References: 1

alma, this is a beautiful image of ourselves, las chicana's, mexicana's, latina's, indigena's, boricua's... or whatever we identify ourselves as. we are the mujeres of change and your courage is another example that our visions and truths are not easily accepted, but our shoulders and commitment to self expression is unshaken by the rigidity of age old adherance to antiquated ideas held by the seemingly powerful. but, what you are proving is that that archaic power is crumbling and shifted to la gente of causa, ancestral legacy, and determined change. you break through barriers with the flowers of juan diego, with the gente you bring with you in this challenge, with the gathered strength as we stand together at this time in our history, cumpliendo con nuestro deber historico! las mujeres en pie de lucha, y la hora es ya!

juntos/juntas venceremos.
dorinda moreno

Subject: Virgen
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 21:29:46 EST

Alma Lopez
March 26, 2001

I always say good things about art work and even If I don't understand it. God has given people such as yourself great gifts to share with His creation beauty and wonders of His Reflection.

But the digital photograph of "Our Lady" is an art so offensive that heaven cries out.! I can't even find words to express it. Mary is the central example of Purity next to her divine Son. She is the Honor of our poeple, [ the hispanos.] the joy of our hearts. What you have created is a absoute disgrace to Holy Mother Church, the people of God. You say that you have a relationship with the "Virgen?"
Somewhere you have gone wrong, "Very Wrong". This is a slap to the very core of Christianity. PLEASE, I HOPE YOU REALIZE WHAT YOU HAVE SAID AND DONE! And someday retract.

J. Sanchez


Subject: Re: Cyber Arte - Please help
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 18:45:02 -0800
From: "meowgrrrl carlos-gonzales" <>

Dearest Alma,

I am so sorry that you have been targeted by this tapado who feels he is the authority on our collective historical and religious culture. I agree that La Virgen belongs to all of us, to relate to her however makes her relevent to our lives. It's interesting, I was talking to a feminist friend from DF, Mexico. She can't understand how Chicana feminists insist on making her an icon, knowing what she has been, and what she continues to be. I explained that we have changed the meaning of her, citing your work and Yolanda G.'s running virgen. In order to keep her, this is what has needed to happen.We have freed her not only for our sake, but for hers as well. I have never seen a virgen that has laughed so loudly, and beamed so wide. And now she is ours more than ever.

Did you see that film Cradle Will Rock? It includes the sub-plot of Rockefeller commissioning Diego Rivera to do a mural, which of couse challenges all of Rockefellers values. At a party (in the film) where all of the American burgoisie is ironically costumed as pre-french revolutionary nobility, they scheme about "creating" the next art movement. They resolve to fund only non-threatening, non-political art, making it the only art that the general public will see. There are those who will try to control even the most creative forces. But, I am confident that the museum curator will uphold it's own commitment to showcase the work of one more queer woman of color.  Perhaps Mr. Villegas should be putting his energy into something more productive, like ending the mis-representations of Chican@s, Latin@s and Indegenous peoples in the general media.

I will be sure to write as many letters as I need to in order for your brilliant work to remain visible, my dear friend.

You have my full respect and support,

Rocio Carlos

P.S. I would also solicit the help of the Guerilla Girls. They are a group of anonymous women artist activists who have a way with public relations and have interesting statistics of museums commitment/persistance of the white/male prevalence in art.



Subject: Your wonderful art!!
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 22:26:19 -0800
From: "Lilia Nieto" <>
To: <>

Hey... No hagas caso de la gente que pone a la religion sobre el arte.

You are good girl! You keep on doing what you're doing because you do it very well.

And, besides... "Our Lady of Guadalupe... Mother of God"?... Yikes!!! I find that extremely offensive TOWARDS God! To think that He had a mother?? Wasn't God supposed to be the creator of EVERYTHING and EVERYONE? I simply can't understand some people's fanatism. Para resumir... I've never found a single verse in the ENTIRE Bible that mentions Guadalupe, or Lourdes, or Fatima... the list of "virgins" is pretty endless. Que flojera me da la gente que en lugar de ocupar su fe de manera mas productiva, se traga cualquier cuento con tal de no hacer la tarea de enterarse bien de que se trata. Si han de defender la religion, mejor que se pongan a leer la Biblia (desde el Genesis hasta el Apocalipsis y sin hacer trampa).

But anyway... YOUR ART ROCKS! Keep it up! Y como decia mi abuelita, no hagas caso de las malas lenguas, son puras envidias!

In respect and admiration,

Lilia P. Nieto
"We make a living by what we get...
We make a life by what we give"

Subject: arte
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 22:43:44
From: "Maria Figueroa" <>
To: almalopez@earthlink.netHola Alma,

I received your plee for help via Calaca Press' email list. They are a San Diego Publication House. I heard about your situacion through my mom who is a Mexicana, mas catolica y devota to la virgen morena. She actually saw your work on TV and was impressed! I woulld like to support your right to display and interpret your relationship to Guadalupe- as it is your perosnal/spiritual and artisitic right. I will be in Santa Fe in a couple of weeks and will personally deliver my letter to the director and curator.
Do you have the "controversial" piece in cyberlandia?

Maria Figueroa
Profesora de English y Chicano Studies
San Diego City CollegeSubject: santa fe