This week we discussed various corresponding ways in which gender, health, healing, race, and the environment correspond with each other in latinidad. We examine two guiding Latina figures rarely associated with the institution of marriage, because they are reigning goddess of heavens and earth, and in more ways than one, mothers virginal and almighty: Afro-Cuban Oshún / Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre and Amerindian Pachamama. We appropriated the mythical saying of matrimonial promise, “in sickness and in health” and with that, we explored some miraculous properties of Oshún / La Caridad del Cobre and Pachamama.
In your commentary for this week, compare the synergy of motherhood, authorship, politics subalterity, decoloniality, and rituals that the devotion of Oshún / Caridad del Cobre in Cuba and Pachamama in South America represent, and write how you see some of those synergies incorporated in JLo’s political resistance to motherhood and women’s submission in “Ain’t Your Mama.”
Please, post your comment by Sunday at 5pm. Apologies for posting this prompter late, I have been bedridden since yesterday. If you need more time, no worries. Make sure, though, that you do not let this post hanging for too late, for that will erase the memories of our discussion this week. Wishing you all peace and health.
This week had a lot of concepts that I struggled to understand, however towards the end of the week something that I realized was the power in indigenous rituals. The decolonial and rituals surrounding Oshun/Caridad de Cuba were so powerful to learn about. I was particularly mesmerized by the rituals specifically surrounding weddings. In Radcliffe’s article weddings are referenced as a “ceremony carried political resonances that speak to long-standing core disputes over land, territory, citizenship, and rights” (122). A wedding is more than a wedding to these people. While it is a celebration of two people’s love for one another, it is also a recognition of their ancestors. It is recognition of what their ancestors endured to get to where they are now. Radcliffe mentions that “the yachaq explained how the wedding returned to a path trodden by ancestors… in which the hilltop ceremony engaged Indigenous politics and socio-natures” (122). These rituals are a stance against colonialism and are recognizing who they are and where they come from. This stance against traditional colonialism, and way of honoring Oshun/Caridad de Cuba is how traditions and stories of indigenous lives get passed down and I am so delighted to be able to take pride and joy in these traditions.
This week, I greatly enjoyed learning about la Caridad del Cobre and Pachamama, since I have never learned about their influence as religious/ spiritual figures. I have only been familiar with Catholic religious figures, such as la Virgin de Guadalupe and el Divino Niño. Although la Caridad del Cobre is very much an iconographic figure due to her ornate dress and prestige, there are important similarities between her and Pachamama. Both Pachamama and la Caridad del Cobre have stood alongside the oppressed, who were mostly Indigenous and Black, enslaved people. These figures seem to gain their strength from the oppressed, but they also provide strength to the people who are being oppressed. One of the major differences that stood out to me was that Pachamama’s image serves as a way to decolonize religion because she is the earth and the energy of nature. Pachamama demonstrates that nature is indeed sacred.
I consider La Caridad del Cobre and Pachamama as figures of strength, who are here to serve people who are being subjected to oppression. In JLo’s “Ain’t Your Mama,” Jennifer Lopez shows how women are constantly serving others yet are not treated with respect or as equals. JLo encourages women to be strong by standing up for themselves. Women could be a group of oppressed people that La Caridad del Cobre and Pachamama provide strength for. If we delve deeper into the meanings of these spiritual figures, we can also understand that they show that women are strong and powerful. As in JLo’s video, we can see that a woman’s worth is more than having a submissive role in the home and the workplace due to the strength and the compassion of La Caridad del Cobre and Pachamama.
I thoroughly enjoyed learning about both Pachamama and la Caridad del Cobre this week. Particularly, I found the contrast between the heavily ornate imagery and iconographic depiction of la Caridad del Cobre, and the natural splendor energized by the earth of Pachamama to be very intriguing. According to Tola, “Pachamama is the name for capricious earthly forces embodied in rocks, rivers, and mountains” (194), and her illustration in the image discussed during our class this week epitomizes that. We can witness her folded hands, as well as the other brown lines around her body symbolizing boulders, highlighting the fact that she is an unwavering source of strength and support for those that need her, and that nature is indeed, divine and sacred. We can also witness the fact that trees and knolls of grass are emanating from the remainder of her body and her hair, illuminating the fact that she is risen from, and one with the earth, and gains her energy and power from nature, and thus, makes human life possible. On the other hand, the image of la Caridad del Cobre is baroque, resplendent in gold, and most importantly, bears a bejeweled cross, symbolizing its Catholic roots and connection. Furthermore, I find the etymology of la Caridad del Cobre’s name, and her “position as Cobre’s patroness [which] depended precisely on its strong local identity, [and] which contributed, in turn, to her later prominence throughout Cuba” (Gonzalez, 82) to be very interesting. Specifically, the fact that ”at the time La Caridad del Cobre appeared in the Bay of Nipe, Cobre was primarily a copper-mining community composed of slaves” (Gonzalez, 82) underscores the fact that Cachita is primarily revered as a tenacious force, and source of fortitutde for the enslaved populace of Cuba, before she became popular throughout Cuba, beyond the pueblos of Cobre. Cachita was also instrumental in carving a unique Cuban identity separate, and distinct from Spain, due to her “evolving symbolic connection” (Gonzalez, 84) to the Cuban populace. It is also important to note that Cachita was a visionary, because she wanted a temple built for herself, rather than for God or for anyone else, because she wanted a home that would serve as a gathering place that would attract everybody, regardless of race, gender, and social class. Thus, she wanted to pioneer and empower an inclusive environment in a shrine that served as her home.
Moreover, despite their visual differences, both Pachamama and la Caridad del Cobre are similar in that they both serve as sources of support, and courage for those mistreated and oppressed, namely the enslaved Indigenous and Black populations of South America and Cuba. Furthermore, I want to underscore Adiela’s point that the image of Pachamama, often referred to as “Mother Earth” or “Earth Mother” serves as a way to decolonize religion, and in many ways, is a backlash of those ignored, oppressed, and treated subserviently, against the opulent and gilded images projected by the Catholic Church. Additionally, Jennifer Lopez’s “Ain’t Your Mama” music video illustrates the fact that women are constantly seen as being subservient to men, and are considered to only exist to feed, clean for, and care for men, who treat them as objects rather than with respect, as equals. Through her pivotal music video, JLo encourages and empowers women to rebel against the patriarchal society that they find themselves in, and against the stereotypical ‘mother’ role that society has made them believe that they must play for their husbands in order to be good wives, and good partners. Ultimately, JLo is highlighting the fact that women are more valuable, and have greater potential and worth than the submissive roles that they are subject to in the workplace or at home, as domestic servants, cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry for their often ungrateful husbands. Thus, similar to Cachita and Pachamama, JLo also sought to empower an oppressed populace, and to provide compassion and consolation for those subjugated.
A common theme I noticed across the readings of Pachamama and La Caridad del Cobre is that they always compare these figures to the Virgin Mary. There are definitely comparisons to be made, such as how we did in class, but it makes me think about how eurocentric everything in the world is, including religion. Historically, one of the reasons conquistadors used to justify conquering others was that they were “barbarians” and not as socially advanced as Europeans because they did not follow Christianity. Even though we’ve evolved past conquests in our modern society, the idea that Europe, or the West in general, is superior, has remained. Tola’s article states “By assimilating Pachamama to the Virgin, the Europeans attempted to bring under control a being and a worldview irreducible to Western hierarchical dichotomies of man/woman, generativity/death, and purity/contamination.” To the Europeans, since Pachamama does not necessarily represent purity, she automatically represents the opposite: lust and chaos. Instead of trying to understand their religious figure, they tried to change what she represents to better fit their religion. This idea further speaks on the way women, and female religious figures, are viewed in the eyes of the church. A woman should be clean, pure, virgen- like, and if not, they are seen as the complete opposite. There is no middle ground for women to be seen as just normal people with complex personalities.
This week was my first time hearing of La Caridad del Cobre and Pachamama. Growing up Catholic, I have been very familiar with the religious figure of La Virgen de Guadalupe. While learning about La Caridad del Cobre and Pachamama I was able to connect them a lot to the Virgin Mary. We discussed many of these comparisons in class, but I thought it was most interesting when we discussed the differences between La Caridad and Pachamama. We noted that Pachamama does not embody sacredness in an iconographic way while La Caridad is clearly iconographic in her image. In this discussion, we mentioned the neglect of recognizing iconography as a drug. I was surprised by this comment because I had never thought of it before, but I completely agree that iconography could be considered the major drug of them all.
To answer the question we ended with last class, what are 4 ways in which theres a deconstruction of dominant power in the wedding from the reading. The wedding goes against traditional religious wedding rituals being that it was held on top of a mountain and not in a church. They had a yachaq and there was no mention of a white dress so it is possible that traditional wedding attire was not used. There was heavy political presence at the wedding, including a lawyer.
In JLo’s “Ain’t Your Mama,” she represents all women that suffer from the patriarchal society that has been around since the beginning of time. Cachita in El Cobre stood for the royally enslaved black people in Cuba, which highlights a similarity in their efforts to improve others’ quality of life. González mentions how idolizing the Virgin Mary sets unattainable standards for Latinas. To hold one woman up as “the standard” and criticize anyone who is not like her does more harm than good because it creates an internal struggle. JLo makes a conscious effort to include women of every shade in her video to convey that all women are their own people- they do not exist to serve or to be in a bubble. When Professor Carrion said Cachita would not wish to just have the pronoun “she”, it really stuck with me. When children are born, we find out the sex of them and immediately have a set of expectations for how they will act as they grow. Cachita would not want any assumptions to be made about her behaviors or abilities because they are all-encompassing. To me, that highlights the fact that we should not set limits on people because of their sex or gender.
I found it interesting when Radcliffe said Ecuador actually takes its indigenous people’s desires into consideration because in the US our Native Americans live on reservations. Nowadays, there are indigenous children being found beneath schools in Canada. The effort of decolonialization in Ecuador is incredible, but the bitter aftertaste of that prime-time period remains. Even with the oppression of Latinas, the subaltern groups have continued to praise Pachamama. She is nature, she is everything. To praise a woman but still oppress Latinas does not make sense to me. It is almost as if men cannot fathom making more than one woman feel worthy; only one receives praise and because she is the only one, she will receive an overwhelming amount. If women were given the opportunity to unite, as they did in JLo’s video, they would overcome every obstacle men have created and men would no longer be considered “superior”. Regarding the people having their wedding outside, in presence of Pachamama, demonstrates how important she is to them. Rather than having a wedding in a church with a priest, they position themselves to be on the top of the hill. That, to me, is a rejection of societal standards to become more connected with the culture that existed before the Spanish came.
JLo is probably one of the more well-known examples of Latinx peoples championing White feminism (and Whiteness in general) in the interest of “equality,” as is made evident in her music video for “Ain’t Your Mama.” I see something similar in La Virgen de Caridad, and it pains me to see the distance that has expanded between her and Oshún. The figure of this White-skinned virginal mother adorned in gold and standing atop the entire planet seems counter to the purpose of liberation theology, even if she was once a symbol for Black and Native spiritual redemption (under the assumption that such a thing could exist within existing paradigms).
As I learned more about Pachamama this week, I gained a bit more insight into the ways in which Indigenous knowledge and ways of being are appropriated and distorted to suit the goals of Whiteness and perpetuate the idea of “la raza cosmica.” It’s clearly essential to the project of Latinidad that antagonisms between Oshún and La Caridad and between Pachamama and Mother Earth are erased. It’s easier to see a compliment instead of an antagonist. It feels like non-White-passing Latinx people have lost the fight to reclaim and transform Catholicism in their favor, but I’m not convinced it was ever winnable in the first place. What hurts worse is coming to the understanding that every form of spirituality is vulnerable to being defaced when met with coloniality.
The figures we explored this week helped me think about how motherhood has been shaped by Latinos into a source of strength. Though it shouldn’t be ignored that it is an intense responsibility and pressure on Latinas to be the carriers of holiness, religion and culture for their families, La Caridad del Cobre and Pachamama are women figures whose understanding and personification place subaltern populations at the core of political understanding. With that said, I think the way they’ve been elevated as figures of intersectional communities has dulled their image and message in whiteness. In their original lens these are empowering figures for oppressed communities, however, as the figures were expanded to more audiences their messages and images became whiter and the “decolonial stance” that they took feels lost. In the image we examined of La Caridad, she is depicted as a white woman towering over the earth with a dress that expresses political and monetary power, holding a baby that is more important than her. That next to an image of Oshun (that I think is a lot more down to earth) feels like La Caridad has had a lot of meaning imposed on her that she didn’t ask for. Further, when we think about Pachamana as a mother we have to think about Latinx understandings of motherhood versus indigenous understandings. We are still a product of colonialism and the way both figures’ images were contorted shows that. Pachamama is an energy that we are allowed to participate in. She isn’t a caretaker, she doesn’t owe us anything. To impose an image of a giving or caring mother on her feels s a tad devaluing.
With regard to J’Lo, I hate to disapoint Dra. Carrion but I struggle to see her video as a thought provoking act of political resistance. J’Lo’s video makes it seem like all women have to do is realize they shouldn’t be oppressed. Especially with the role that Latina women have been made to take in the United States, often seen as house maids or nannies, the fact that J’Lo is dressed like a white woman from the 1940s with her (white) husband doesn’t ring a bell for me. She isn’t being a mother in the Latina sense and she doesn’t address the struggle behind why Latinas can’t just stop being mothers. I do think that there is value in having Latina representation that isn’t associated with motherhood, but J’Lo’s message isn’t quite empowering either. She doesn’t state what women are or what alternative representation they need, she kinda just says that women should be more than mothers and doesn’t take into account any racial or class issues at play, even within the scenes of her own video. I just feel like the message could’ve been done better.
When learning about Caridad del Cobre it saddened me to see Oshun’s roots and relation fade as Caridad was made more westernized. Personally, Gonzalez’s reading was my favorite one so far and how she so gracefully explained Cachita’s beginnings and “development”. It was interesting to learn about Pachamama and Caridad del Cobre as they stand for symbols of alliance to subaltern people. They are powerful as they become authoritative figures, Cachita asking for a place of worship just for her and Pachamama for being the earth, air, water, that keep people alive and well. Although people have tried to change Pachamama and Cachita to fit colonizer’s ideals, they fail to do so entirely. As Caridad del Cobre still stands in solidarity with the people of Cuba and demands attention and respect for those who suffered due to racism and Pachamama continues to be an integral part of indigenous culture and rituals. When it comes to motherhood these alliances are as motherly as it gets. Pachamama has contributed to subaltern societies for them to gain political standing with more dominant social/racial groups. Caridad del Cobre suffered with her people in exile and in all other areas where they needed her. Like Tatiana, I find it difficult to relate all these synergies to JLo’s video. I think that while she has the intention of empowering women, it fails to give any way to do so. It feels as if she’s using the role of women as a subordinate figure to create a level of understanding that simply doesn’t feel natural. As if all women are blind to the misogyny around them and choose to stick around.
Though I was unable to attend class on Monday and engage with the discussions during class, I did find the readings to be rather interesting, particularly Gonzalez’s essay concerning La Caridad. With much of class concerned with Pachamama on Wednesday, especially the image of her form anthropomorphized into the face of a mountain, I came to research other instances of Marian iconography that subvert the many Eurocentric and white ideals projected onto the concept and diety that is the Mother Virgin (I explicitly am not referring to the Virgin Mary, but rather to the solemnity of sacred and revered virgin mothers stemming from the concept of “The Virgin Mary” within Western religions). I took what I gleaned from Gonzalez’s essay and juxtaposed it with another instance of Marion iconography that has been a recent case of racial and ethnic discourse within the sect of religiously focused Art History, particularly that of Gothic art. The piece I refer to is the “Black Madonna” of Chartres Cathedral in France which, prior to its restoration just a few years back, was a seemingly black or brown Madonna in conventional dress and composition, though after her restoration she is “white” and back to being “as she should.” What struck me was the similarity between the depictions of the Chartres Madonna and the historicity of the signification of La Caridad. The Chartres Madonna is also a figure whose importance to the black and brown people living in France is quite large, especially those of former French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. These people who are no less French than other French people but who do also bring with them their ancestry, history, cultures, and ethnicities, as well as any indigenous or cultural traditions, find solace in this Black Madonna, However, her recent “cleansing” seems to have washed her of her iniquities, making her “pure again,” but what does this mean? If this Black Madonna is still considered a Black Madonna even after her cleaning, then what is the value of a narrative if its conduit has no steam to propel it? Then again, who gets to decide that her value is lessened by her being “seemingly” black, even if she isn’t black underneath whatever coating of age or soot there may be? The Virgin Mary, La Caridad, and the Black Madonna, then, all hold different significations and meanings depending on the value of their histories and the authority of the voices determining that worth. What La Caridad offers, unlike the Black Madonna, is a chance to shift such paradigmatic associations and hegemonic significations placed upon and into the bodies of these iconographic deities, meaning that her existence as a symbol for the Afro-Cubano people of Cuba is the power that forces her away from a strict association with the Virgin Mary because she is NOT the white, Eurocentric Virgin Mary that she may appear to be. As with the Black Madonna, though she may appear to resemble a history associated with her, her importance is in her depiction and her story which the Black people of France gave her. Thus, La Caridad and the Black Madonna live separate lives outside of their iconographic origins, and they will live on as their own deities because of their importance as Mothers to those people cast aside from their white, European colonizer counterparts.
I was fascinated this week to learn about some of the non-Christian elements of religion in the Caribbean and Latinidad. I had previously been under the assumption that the vast majority of people in both these regions were Catholic or belonged to other traditional denominations. I was interested by how deities from indigenous/traditional religions such as La Caridad del Cobre, Pachamama, and Oshun also greatly affect spirituality in Latin America and the Caribbean. I feel as though this lack of awareness is caused by a systemic erasure of Hispanics and the remanence of traditional African life from academia and the media when discussing the culture of these regions. The form of Spanish taught in academic institutions, for example, only reflects the way that it is spoken in Spain (Europe) and thereby erases the lived experiences of Hispanics (those who speak Spanish but do not come from Spain). Deities such as La Caridad del Cobre and Pachamama, for example, are virtually unknown to the outside world that simply writes off all non-traditionally Christian practices as “voodoo”-also represents an erasure of the true spirituality of the black and indigenous. Even when discussed, the efforts taken to recast native deities such Pachamama in white skin and European garb reflects a pervasive unwillingness to acknowledge the actual significance of these deities due to how it is viewed as an inconvenience to the prevailing colonialist narrative. A core aspect of Pachamama and La Caridad del Cobre is clearly their solidarity with the indigenous and black people of the region and opposition to their inhumane treatment at the hands of colonizers. I feel as though this theme is mirrored by Jennifer Lopez’s fundamentally light hearted song “Ain’t yo mama”, since it too calls out and criticizes the normalization of female subservience in the traditional western household. Jennifer Lopez identifies that women are also fundamentally dispossessed and demonstrates that social change is possible to similarly give them hope that change is eventually possible over time. Lopez’s portrayal of the women’s’ struggle only from the perspective of ordinary women and not from the inauthentic perspective of a politician or professional activist demonstrates why is is especially important that traditional deities like Oshun/Pachamama/La Caridad del Cobre are not recast in an inauthentic Eurochristain way that robs them of their true significance.
In the variety perceptions of Cachita, the most simplistic western view compares her to the Virgin Mary, and this being the reason why she relates to the people of Cobre even to this day. Rather Cachita represents the coloniality the western view represents, as Cachita is cherished for her ability to associate with those casted aside. Similarly Pachamama is labeled as the fragile Mother Nature rather than the powerful energy that flows in nature. All of this in an attempt to place a ‘female’ embodiment under motherhood. This assumption of motherhood placed upon a female is exactly what JLo sings about in her music video and stands against for in her day to day life. Now only are we exploring the decolonization in these interpretations as those dispossessed have come into a more influential role. The importance of realizing how Pachamama was characterized unlike herself while exploring the grace that dispossessed have prevailed despite of this. Similar to how the wedding showed this in its ceremonial practices rather than the traditional western practice. How Quechua wasn’t wiped out of their community despite heavy Spanish presence and a yachaq is chosen for the sake of themselves and identity. How the wedding was still celebrated with the presence of Pachamama, on their highest hill and eating their traditional food blessed from this energy.
From the class discussion on September 20th, I gather that Cachita is not actually meant to be viewed as a mother figure to the masses but as a symbol of strength and perseverance. Cachita is represented as a floating head on a stick in physical form. The way in which Cachita appears to Moreno, a man who is only significant because he witnessed La Virgen de la Caridad. Her presence in this town de Cobre is important because it was a town of miners with few rights and significant risk. La Virgen de la Caridad descended to Moreno as a protector of the miners and their strenuous circumstances. As a physical “doll” Cachita is represented as a White figure, while some images show Cachita as a translation of Cachita into Blackness, Ochún. Both figures represent mobility, hope, and opportunity to the people they appeared to on the physical world.
On the other hand, there is Pachamama who is represented as a mountain or a part of the earth. She does not embody in an iconographic way in the same way Cachita does. Pachamama’s universal energy comes from nature: the rivers, mountains, rocks, earth, and trees.
In JLo’s video for “Aint Your Mama”, she represents the different roles of a woman and conveys the expectations of a woman in society. The premise of the video is basically women uniting and liberating themselves from the hold of the patriarchal society women are confined to. It is the society and culture that values submission and makes reproduction the main role and responsibility of women.
In sickness and in health, wedding vow that evokes the feeling that you will be cared for despite your health. It is an act of selfishness and devotion. Many people even feel that caring for others is a source of strength, similar to Cachita, who got her strength from working with the oppressed. In sickness and in health doesn’t necessarily mean humans, and Pachamama proves that through the energy of nature, there is also sickness. And during the discussion of Pachamama, it reminded me of our discussion of the flesh from some weeks prior. How whiteness only attributes sacredness to flesh and religious figures, while Pachamama is still a living being but uses his energy and presence in nature. Decolonization is very important for topics like this. Can we re-imagine religion? Are we able to take of the “white-lense” on religion? Devotions to yemaya, Pachamama, deities, is an attempt to decolonize. To think further than what we as society agree about belief and religiosity. Part of that is honoring ancestors and continuing tradition, instead of incorporating commercialized version. Religiosity is sick and by posing these questions we have a chance to care for it.