The Guadalupes

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Invisible Guadalupe, Betsy James

The soul of the conquered
enters that of the conqueror.
Carl Jung

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Throughout history, conquerors have destroyed the temples of the conquered and have built, on the same spot, sanctuaries to their own gods. What happens then is a syncretism: a partial—and often dynamic and unpredictable—fusion of belief systems.

Until the Spanish Conquest of Mexico, on the place where the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe now stands was a temple to Tonantzín-Cihuacóatl. Neither meek nor maidenly, this Aztec moon-and-mother goddess was an aspect of Coatlique, who wore a skirt woven of live serpents and a necklace of severed human hands and hearts.

The syncretism of these complex spiritual systems—Mesoamerican and European—infuses the art of Mexico and New Mexico, where vivid, non-European renditions of the Guadalupe are seen on every hand. A tremendous local energy pours through them, as the so-called “New World” enters the “Old World” and engenders a fresh and powerful image.

Mexico and New Mexico have been my home for decades. I’ve painted more than a hundred Guadalupes. The symbols of crescent moon, winged child and radiant glory, constantly changing, give form to life in this land where cultures meet, fertilize, and energize each other.
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Guadalupe as Black Madonna, Betsy James

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Rose-Briar Guadalupe, Betsy James

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Soul-Boat Guadalupe, Betsy James

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Guadalupe as Nothingness and All, Betsy James

All material on this site, both text and graphics, is ©Betsy James, and may not be used commercially without her permission.

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Betsy James on Writing, Art, and Walking in the Desert

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