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Devotion: Photographs of Our Lady of Guadalupe

"La Virgen y Juan Diego / The Virgin and Juan Diego" by Jesse Herrera, 1987

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The Wittliff takes you on a visual exploration into the cultural phenomenon that Our Lady of Guadalupe has created throughout the United States and the world. This major photography exhibition features documentary photographs by 23 artists of the faithful who visit the basilica in Mexico City; those who venerate her throughout Mexico and the traditions and customs honoring her in the Southwest U.S. The exhibition also highlights the popularity of her image and the cultural impact it has made on secular society.

The story of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe / Our Lady of Guadalupe is truly amazing. According to tradition, it begins in 1531, shortly after the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico. Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian, sees the apparition of the Virgin Mary at Tepeyac Hill, near present-day Mexico City. She speaks to him in his native language, telling him that she is a merciful mother who would give love and protection to all who live in this land. She asks for a chapel to be built in her honor at that location. Juan Diego tells the bishop, who does not believe him, and asks for a sign or proof that it was her. Juan Diego returns to Tepeyac Hill, and Mary presents him with miraculous roses that do not grow in Mexico. He wraps the roses in his tilma, a cactus fiber cloak, and takes them to the bishop. When he opens the cloak, the flowers fall to the floor, revealing a life-size image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the fabric. Falling to his knees, the bishop believes the miracle and builds the chapel in her honor. The tilma still exists today and can be seen at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage destination in the world.

The exhibition explores how the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe continues to be a very influential and powerful symbol of Mexican identity and faith through photography by such artists as Yolanda Andrade, Keith Dannemiller, Jesse Herrera, Rodrigo Moya, and Richard Speedy.

A trio of photographs by artist and visual anthropologist Alinka Echeverria from her series Mexico: Road to Tepeyac are prominently featured. These unique images of Catholic pilgrims reveal what they carry on their backs when they journey to the Basilica.

December 12 is the feast day for Our Lady of Guadalupe and is celebrated across Mexico and the Southwest U.S. Photographs taken on this day are shown throughout the gallery by numerous artists. Miguel Gandert has been photographing the social rituals, people and landscape of his native New Mexico for decades. His images document one of the oldest pilgrimages in the U.S. honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe, a three-day celebration in Tortugas, New Mexico.

The popularity of her image can be found on every possible surface, from t-shirts to tattoos and inside and outside homes. Renowned Latin American photographer Graciela Iturbide is represented with images from the border, her Juchitán series and more. Local photographers are shown including San Antonio native Al Rendon, and Austin-based photographers Faustinus Deraet, Kevin Greenblat, Geoffrey Kroll, Ed Malcik and Stephanie Duprie Routh.

A visual and historic tour of the Basilica and the surrounding Villa de Guadalupe is presented through real photo and color postcards, all donated to The Wittliff by Susan Toomey Frost.

The exhibition was curated by Carla Ellard, photo-archivist for the Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collection at The Wittliff.


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