Mexican Phoenix, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Image and Tradition Across Five Centuries; Images at War: Mexico from Columbus to Blade Runner (1492-2019)

In This Review

Mexican Phoenix, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Image and Tradition Across Five Centuries

By David Brading
Cambridge University Press, 2001
385 pp. $34.95
Purchase

Images at War: Mexico from Columbus to Blade Runner (1492-2019)

By Serge Gruzinski, translated by Heather Maclean
Duke University Press, 2001
312 pp. $59.95
Purchase

Our Lady of Guadalupe, a painting of the Virgin Mary in the chapel of Tepeyac near Mexico City, is a central icon of Mexican culture and religiosity. This brilliant and deeply researched book looks back at the interpretation of the image and the various roles it has served throughout Mexican history. Once a banner of rebellion against Spanish rule, the icon remains a potent religious symbol despite decades of Mexican anticlericalism. In fact, its changing representation over time mirrored Mexico's own profound changes. The clergy itself was often divided about the cult; some feared it afforded Indians a subterfuge for idolatry, whereas others proclaimed the Virgin as the patron saint of the Americas. Brading has provided a remarkable insight into the continuities surrounding religious practice, doctrine, and ceremony in Latin America.

If Brading offers a fine example of Anglo-Saxon historical scholarship, Gruzinski brings a Parisian postmodern flourish. Rooting his account in how Mexico's various ethnic groups left their own distinct marks, his stimulating discussion ranges from the history of the country since the early Spanish conquistadors to the programs produced by the powerful TV network Televisa. This rich hybrid culture continues today, he writes, and helps Mexico manage its baroque pluralism.

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