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Monday, April 13, 2009


Listen, guys. I know. I know, I know that Prescott College is not in to religion. We're into Spirituality. Sometimes. And we are so definitely not into Christianity.Neither am I. Not in the strictest sense.But I love the story of resurrection.
I love ceremony, I love that feeling you get with 200 people in the same room thinking similar thoughts, focused, on love of other people, love of the dead, love of that feeling. I've been thinking about ceremony a lot.I read this page, about one of the Latino cultural centers in Dallas (my home):
The show is all of images of La Virgen de Guadalupe. That art critic is annoyed with repetition. He wrote: "As we drove up, we noticed three male Hispanic* artists rendering Frida, Diego, a Super Lucha and somebody I didn't recognize, super realistically in lush, dark mural colors on the front wall.
I was dismayed by the un-original images and forms portraying America's most original and individualist artist couple ever. The irony was weightily whelming, and I tried to escape inside the building, but Kathy lingered long out there, insisting I come watch what I'd already seen too much of.
Inside, we were seriously un-awed and actively annoyed by the tedious exhibition of me-too copies in differing colors but few different concepts lost in a hopelessly PC, taste-free zone. Kathy worried aloud about the nightmares she expected next time she'd try to sleep. It was, she said later, "the stuff of bad dreams."
We do that. I do that. It's not just tourists who shop for luchadores paraphernalia, Frida prints, the same dia de los muertos figures every year. My mama is obsessed with milagros, which are the same images, in a thousand tiny silver incarnations. Pressed hands, legs, arms, breasts, flowers, boots, eyes, hearts. I love these things. I love that they are all incarnations of the same idea. We love those ideas. I love the idea of the ideas.

Those art critics see that as unoriginal. Typecasting artists into limiting stereotypes. Maybe we should make art that isn't about Guadalupe, Diego, and Santo? I joke all the time, anything that I cook is Mexican food because I'm Mexican. But that doesn't ring true, does it?
I think this art is ceremonial. It is an affirmation that we love who we are, and we love our culture.

I have 4 images of Guadalupe in my room here in Arizona, and I didn't have any at home in Texas. I didn't need to. In the absence of my family, and of the neighborhood, and of the music everywhere around me, I have these little statues and pictures instead. They make it easier for me to sleep. Cheesey as they are to high art, they make where I'm from part of where I am. Putting them in my room was itself a ceremony, each time.
Ceremony is a way of making emotional, mental, and spiritual things physical. That's what I see in this art, and that's what I get out of mass. It's not even that ceremony is's that it's necessary.
Easter is this weekend. I am searching for things to do. Prescott College is far from religious, and I think in most other places, I would describe myself the same way. Here though, I miss my family with an intensity that itself is nearly religious. It is transformative! I lament my diet, I chastise myself for not making my own tortillas. Insignificant and distant memories take on so much more weight, and I want to listen to nothing but Rancheras alllll day. I want to cry. Something so stupid, like wearing my hair back and out of my make-up-laden face is now worthy of Vincente Fernandez soundtrack and despair! What's up with that?!
In sum, I have decided to buy a nice white dress and go to mass tomorrow, things I haven't done at home in years and years. In my beautiful mexicana family's absence, I am everything they want me to be. Except there with them.

*I hate this word, and I never use it to describe myself. It's the critic's word. Write me sometime, and I will explain in copious detail why.

PS. I watch that movie, Frida, nearly religiously, too. For exactly the same reasons.

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