Centro Cultural Aztlan is in my neighborhood of San Antonio, led by Malena Gonzalez-Cid, who is from the barrio, dances a mean polka, known as an advocate for all things Chicana/o.
So why did she censure this painting by Anna-marie Lopez for their recent Guadalupana show? And why am I, a Chicana, questioning her decision?
Because if we are ever going to take over this country, and one day we will, then we have to lead by inclusion, practicing the rights denied us for so long. I'm talking about the First Amendment. Yes, they have more money and the big museums and everything else. And yes, the alternative, The San Antonio Current, broke this story, and sensationalizes, panders, snubs, etc.etc.etc. There are no Latinas/Chicanas who are running the newspaper, public radio, public television, the Current, you get the picture, in a city that has more brown women than anyone else.
They're afraid of us. We know that. But we have La Virgen the Guadalupe. And everytime she's painted without her clothes on, there's controversy.
She is a dignified woman, a solace, forgiving, healing our wounds. Her humility has been misunderstood, it is not a simple humility, but one that burns with justice - for all. She's like the Statue of Liberty and Divine Love. Otherwise, why did she make me this way? And surely, she graced the hands of the artist Anna-marie Lopez, a poor lesbian artist in Austin who created the painting you see here.
Anna-marie painted me - and all the mujeres I know. Of course the men don't like it, of course our abuelitas are horrified. But I know this is exactly who I am.
Centro Cultural Aztlan censured this painting in their recent Guadalupana show. But "Centro" is not a Church - it is a public institution. Read the excerpt of the letter below addressed to Gonzalez-Cid, from Svetlana Mintcheva of the National Coalition Against Censorship, an alliance of 50 national non-profit organizations:
"Even though some people might call for its removal, art expressing unpopular viewpoints remains constitutionally protected expression. As the director of an art center, which receives public funding, you are obliged to follow First Amendment principles, which prohibit government officials from discriminating against ideas on the basis of the viewpoint expressed in them.
We strongly urge to include the work in the show for the remainder of its duration - however short it might be. This will help you avoid further negative publicity. We also urge you adopt a respect for free expression statement, which can be used in case of community members' objection to this or another piece exhibited in the Centro. We will be available to assist you in developing guidelines which would guarantee the viewpoint-neutral selection of work and establish a process for responding to potential complaints."
Vivan las mujeres fuertes! For the New Year! Viva La Virgen de Guadalupe! Viva el First Amendment!
artist credit: Anna-marie Lopez, "Virgen," 2006