April 26, 2001


Sent: Monday, March 26, 2001 12:35 PM
To: chicle@unm.edu
Subject: "Our Lady" is under attack in New Mexico

Dear Chicleras y Chicleros:

In a previous posting that went out this morning there is an appeal to writer letters in support of Alma Lopez's work that is an image of La Virgen de Guadalupe dressed in a very beautiful and tastefully done bathing suit. Actually the image of the virgin is that of a Chicana in a rose-covered "bikini" that is really a modest bathing suit. A very small group of vocal Catholics are protesting the art work that hangs in the Girard International Folk Art

Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Tey Mariana Nunn is the curator of the show that features four Chicana artists, entitled Cyber Arte. The group has demanded the resignation of the director of museum and probably by implication the resignation of Dr. Nunn. If this very modest image offends this small group of people and they succeed in getting the work removed, getting the director and the curator fired, they will have gained incredible power. This group should not be allowed to gain the power of censorship over what we should or should not see in museums. Additionally, the church people have written letters of protest to everyone that they think will help them succeed in practicing censorship. A hearing will be held either Thursday or Friday. The day is uncertain which seems to be a tactic to keep supporters at bay.

Below is a more detailed letter explaining the situation in Santa Fe. Please write letters of support, send emails or faxes. This protest for removal of the art piece and the art administrators reminds of the poem written during WWW II. It is a very well known poem but I do not remember the name of the minister who wrote it nor do I remember the title of poem. But has some lines that state something like "They came for the Jews and I did not say anything. They came for the unionists and I did not speak up. When they came for me there was no one to come in my defense. I have a terrible job of recalling the lines but I think you know which poem I am referring to.

Dear Friends of CyberArte,

Most of you are aware of the current controversy surrounding one of the pieces (Our Lady by Alma Lopez) exhibited in the new show, CyberARte: Tradition meets Technology, at the Museum of International Folk Art. For those of you who do not, a conservative group of parshioners from our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Santa Fe have formally requested to have the piece rmoved since they believe it is a "sacrilege" and "blashpemous."

In addition to requesting both the removal of the piece from the exhibit and a public apology, they have demanded the resignations of Dr. Joyce Ice, Director of the Museum of International Folk Art, Dr. Tom Wilson, Director of the Museum of New Mexico and Dr. Tey Mariana Nunn, Curator of Contemporary Hispano and Latino collections.

And, they have not stopped there. At least one of the parishioners has demanded that all Catholic sacred images and icons from the Museum of International Folk Art be returned to the "sacred grounds of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe" and that the museum return admission fees generated by the exhibit to the public treasury. It is alos important to note that nearly all of those "offended" have not even bothered to visit the Cyber Arte exhibit and see the piece in that context. In fact, several have admitted to not having seen the piece at all.

We feel that although the offended parishioners ahve the right to request the removal of the piece, the Museum of New Mexico should not do so. Although the image may be offensive to some, it is an important piece of art that honestly educates the public on Hispanic experiences in this country.

As taxpayers and supporters of the arts in this state, (New Mexico] we should be eqully offended by the denial of our right by a few individuals, to view and learn from an important piece of legitimate art.



From: Susan Rinderle <sjrinderle@hotmail.com>

Hi Teresa, thanks for the extensive information on this controversy. FYI, the quote is from Pastor Martin Niemoeller regarding his experience in Nazi Germany, I believe:

"First they came for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Susana Rinderle


From: JoeOlver@aol.com

Dear Chicleros/Chicleras - here's my take on the Virgen de Guadalupe. I thought it appropriate in light of the controversy over her being depicted in a swim suit. I thought she was human. She was, wasn't she? I'm talking, of course, about Tonantzin. La Virgen de Guadalupe was an invention by los Espanoles to capture the Indigenas' hearts, que no? BTW: My poem was turned into a stage play skit by a group of Indigenous people and presented at Magoffin Theater at U.T. El Paso. Que curadas, raza. Curense mas with my poem, o encabronense mas, whichever you prefer. Orale pues? Orale, pues!

"Tonantzin"by Joe Olvera (c), 2001
Diosa amorosa, tierra del sol
Te amo por tu bendito ser, por
tu habilidad de sobrevivir.
You became someone else,
and you survived.
You fooled everyone, esa.
You put on some glad rags, and
stars around your forehead, and made
us believe you were someone else!
The Mother-of-God. A dark Mother-of-God.
Was it you, diosa? was it you who stared,
starry-eyed, and full of love for humanity?
Was it you, Mother-Child, Earth Goddess
who adored mud? Was it you who changed
identities to save your people?
Did you pretend to be someone you're not,
so that your own could survive, would not die,
would not be killed at gachupin
history, murderous, armor-clad hounds?
Oh, you Mother Earth. You fooled us, didn't you?
How clever of you to imprint your flowery image on the
mantel of that poor Indian, Juan Diego.
El Juanito believed, esa Diosa.
He knew it was you, Tonantzin.
But, he made believe that the creation
had splattered itself on his brown skin.
Pobre Indio. How you used him, esa Virgen.
You blew his mind and so the people believed.
They accepted you as someone other than who
you truly were. How clever. You saved millions of
lives by what you did. Were you aware? You
knew, verdad, esa Diosa de la Tierra. You knew
what you were doing all the time. And, see. They
still worship you. Tonantzin, Madre de la Tierra.
Pues, orale pues, esa Diosa, Dejate cae


Subject: letter of support
Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2001 02:22:51 EDT
From: Coqueta323@aol.com
To: almalopez@earthlink.net

Thank You so much for the beautiful depiction of "La Virgen". I see your depictions of her as embodiments of all Chicanas, she is us and we are her.

She is an integral part of our identity and is a source of pride and strength. And I appreciate seeing her in all of us. thank you so much.

que viva La Virgen, que viva La Chicana!
Alyssa N. Gutierrez
Austin, TX


Subject: Support for Alma Lopez' art

Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2001 01:25:12 -0700
From: Lara Medina <medinal@earthlink.net>
To: info@moifa.org
CC: almalopez@earthlink.net

Thomas Wilson, Director
Joyce Ice
Tey Marianna Nunn, Curator
Museum of New Mexico
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501

I hope it is not too late to offer my support for the groundbreaking art of Alma Lopez. As a professor of Religious Studies and Chicano/a Studies at California State University, Northridge, I commend the work of Chicana artists who are courageously reflecting on and reimaging sacred icons as a necessary step in claiming their religious agency. Work such as Ms. Lopez' is instrumental in articulating a Chicana feminist spirituality that refuses to be confined by patriarchal gender expectations. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been at the center of this spirituality. It is an image of the divine feminine that is held with great respect and one that demands to remain relevant to the changing lives and self-understandings of Chicanas.

Revisionist images of Guadalupe coincide with the changing views of religion and the sacred. As Chicanas and others arrive at more holistic understanding of their own sacred bodies, inevitably the visual representations of the sacred will change also. Ms. Lopez' representation of the divine mother as a young, beautiful, healthy woman supported by a female bare breasted angel with the wings of a butterfly suggests the regenerative nature of the life cycle and that all women's bodies are sacred.

For Chicanas and other women who have traditionally been taught through religion to feel shame about their bodies, Ms. Lopez' work is instrumental in healing very deep wounds and enabling women to embrace their bodies and their sexuality as divine gifts.I commend the museum for exhibiting the work of Ms. Lopez as it reflects the extremely significant role that museums take in communicating culture.

Culture is non-static and it is our museums that can best display the creative, ever evolving nature of societies so that diverse minds might have an arena to learn and converse.


Lara Medina, Ph.D.


Subject: re: image of the virgin
Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2001 08:12:16 -0700
From: "Michael Samano" <samanom@lanecc.edu>
To: <Almalopez@earthlink.net>

Excellent work!

I'm very proud of the work that you are producing for multiple reasons.

Here are just a few:

1. Self reflect on our community's relationship to religion.
2. Challenges sex role expectations within our community.
3. Forces our multiple expressions of culture to socially evolve.
3. Exposes those who need to get a life (your detractors).
4. Reminds us not to take our Chicanismo so seriously!

con respeto,

Michael L. Samano
Coordinator, Ethnic Studies
Lane Community College


Subject: Our Lady
Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2001 17:52:36 -0700 (PDT)
From: oscar THE OZ madrigal <superchingon77@yahoo.com>
To: almalopez@earthlink.net
CC: jice@moifa.org, TMNunn@moifa.org

Dear Alma,

First off let me say thank you for creating a Chicana/o presence on the internet. I think that the place of Art work in this technical day and age sometimes looks like it will or has left us behind.

Secondly let me say that I am extremely sorry for the troubles that you are going through dealing with your art. So many times people want to attack the sensation or the idea of some sort of "evil" in art without thinking critically about the art itself. I want to apologize for certain Chicanos that have not been enlightened to accept a Chicana as a strong person with expression and needs of expression. Being a Male Chicano I wish to apologize for them. Some of the negative attention I think may not have been received by were it not for your sex and expected gender role.

I wanted to say that I personally enjoyed the piece myself. I think it is a wonderful collage (if I can call it that) which incorporates the various elements of the indigenous, the Religious as well as the modern. Also the subtle incorporation of the original painting was very interesting...I am intrigued by the "curved shape" it's flat color almost like a shiny piece of paper, it appears black, solid. Solid as if the central figure has what can be considered a solid footing like Marble. Solid yet slippery.

The blurring effect on top of the central figure suggests heat, as if the new image of La virgen is being burned onto the old one. The bottom angel figure's wings transformation into butterflies wings, bring about a sense of closeness to nature and perhaps along with the cape suggest a closeness to the indigenous culture.

As opposed to the original image of La Virgen this Woman (Clearly Chicana to me) is larger than her crown and therefore can be seen as overpowering the light Which I interpret as the new Chicana virgen greater or having greater intentions than the world in which she lives will allow her to have. I notice a subtle hint of dark outlining on the roses which I'm not sure that I find of particular value or interest... or that could just be my screen acting up again.

A zoom in of the cape of the original Virgen paintingshows greater detail of the decorative elements of the cape..which themselves are interesting, however Ithink that they make the work a bit busy and make the viewer have too many extended eye adjustments inrelation to the painting.These are just my interpretations and views on your painting and not and feelings or explosions of emotionover the sensation of it. As an creative person myself I figured that you might like some actual feedback onthe work itself an not the excitement over it's blasphemous or non-blasphemous nature. I hope that youfind my comments helpful. I appreciate you as an artist making an advancementChicana\os everywhere but especially on the net.

Thank you.Next time you are in L.A. come to the Watts make sure to Visit the Watts Towers of Simon Rodia, and the fabulous Arts Center adjacent to the center. I work there and pretty much grew up there.

Thank you again for your talent and your expression.


Oscar "the Oz" Madrigal