Things That Matter

Some Mexicans Are Freaking Out Over This Drag Queen Who Dressed Up As La Virgencita To Make A Political Statement

La Virgen de Guadalupe is perhaps the most venerated figure in Mexico. Regardless of religious beliefs, la Guadalupana has become a cultural and national symbol, as it contrasts with the predominantly white images of saints and other religious figures (although if we talk about historical accuracy, chances are that Jesus and his disciples looked mostly Brown, as Middle-Eastern folk).

La Guadalupana is Brown-skinned and symbolizes the mixed-nature of Mexican mestizo culture. On one hand, the Guadalupana is derived from Catholicism, on the other it also echoes Aztec deities such as the goddess Tonantzin Coatlicue, which anthropologists believe the culture around La Virgen de Guadalupe echoes.

Truth is that Mexico is a country that venerates the Virgen de Guadalupe perhaps above all things, in particular each December 12, when millions of worshipers travel from all around the country to venerate her at the Basilica of Guadalupe, the place where Juan Diego, an indigenous man, claims to have encountered her. 

So it came as a shock to some that a drag queen from Mexico City dressed up as La Virgen de Guadalupe.

Credit: margaretyya/ Instagram

Her stage name is Margaret y Ya and she has caused controversy with this very artistic picture that reminds us of the work of Italian photographer Mario Testino. In the image, we can see Margaret y Ya posing with shopping bags.

In the photo shared on her Instagram, she writes an ironic caption: “Bendita seas Santa Virgencita Claus ????????✨ que nos llegaste a evangelizar con consumismo y materialismo estas épocas. ????❄️ ????” This roughly translates as: “Bless you Santa Virgencita Claus, you that brought consumerism and materialism to this time of the year”.

This is more a political and social commentary rather than a religious one, as December 12 has become the kick off of the end of year holidays and its many weeks of frantic shopping. The photo was taken by Mario Aragon and the composition highlights irony. Margaret y Ya told El Universal that her idea was to critique the ways in which religion often becomes a commodity. This is perhaps a slightly blunt way of doing it given Mexico’s sociocultural context, but hey, sometimes the only way of getting people’s attention is being over the top and fabulous. 

And as can be expected, some conservative minds (and many abuelitas, we are sure) pusieron el grito en el cielo, while others just chilled.

We mean, this photograph was meme-ready even from its inception, wasn’t it? So it came as no surprise that some in Twitter used it to expand on the “I’m gonna tell my kids this is…” meme universe!

But it is also clear that Margaret y ya had a very clear audience in mind.

Yes, she wanted to make men and boomers angry, which is exactly what she did! And isn’t art supposed to be provocative in order to make us think, really think about preconceived notions we might need to reconsider?

The question is tough but philosophically interesting: how much of religion is associated with buying and selling stuff? The image was part of Margaret y Ya’s 2018 calendar, but as it resurfaced it got more attention than ever before. 

And some dudes got really angry…

Credit: Valladolid Yucatan Pueblo Magico / Facebook

These two dudes are basically saying that no one messes with La Virgencita and that a sacred symbol should not be tainted. Man, take a chill pill. Comments on the original story at El Universal reveal a deep contrast between those users who yell blasphemy at the first chance, and those who can find a bit of nuance in artistic expression. 

But when it comes to Catholic countries such as Mexico, mixing popular culture and religion with art is prone to cause a lot of controversy. Madonna was almost banned from the country for the “Like a Prayer” video.

A Christ-like figure who was black! That was considered blasphemy at the time, as was the fact that Madonna looked at him lovingly. Seriously, this was a BFD a few decades ago, and for years las buenas costumbres in Mexico dictated that the singer was a persona non grata.

Other works of art, such as Martin Scorsese’s monumental film “The Last Temptation of Christ”, have also been banned and considered blasphemy, as they are interpretations of texts that are considered dogma (infallible truths), and as interpretations they might differ from what the Church says.

This is something similar to the mild scandal involving Margaret y Ya, as she took a longstanding symbol and used it to critique a capitalist way of living that perhaps takes those religiously inclined away from their faith. Although we suspect that in this case some old fashioned homophobia also came into the equation.

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