Immaculate Immigrant 7
Virgin of Guadalupe

Virgin Mary Guadalupe George YepesIn 1993, the community of City Terrace in East Los Angeles under the leadership of muralist George Yepes gathered to honor the Virgin. Having grown up in City Terrace, Yepes was selected to paint the Virgin of Guadalupe for the upcoming procession on December 12th. With the riots, all the killings, and everything that had just happened in the city, Yepes did not feel like doing the traditional Virgin of Guadalupe. Instead, he envisioned the Virgin of Guadalupe as the Pietá. Yepes thought, "Instead of the murdered Christ, it is the murdered youth from the streets. That is the image, that's what should lead the procession of the Virgen de Guadalupe."

He started painting his vision of the Virgin, five days straight, sleeping on and off. He described the image to Father Rumi of St. Lucy's Church and Yepes said, "I don't know if [the image is] sacrilegious." Father Rumi replied, "You're right on . . . This is it. We are the body of Christ, and to kill each other, that is the unsacred."

This image was posted on twelve billboards in different gang areas in the city with these words, "For the Love of Our Raza, Stop the Killings!"

Virgin Mary Guadalupe George Yepes PietaIt was displayed over the interior side altar of St. Lucy's. Shortly afterwards Yepes painted two images of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the exterior doors of St. Lucy's Church. Although this mural is abundant with Catholic symbols, it reflects considerable communal pride, with great emphasis on the City of Los Angeles. A banner in the center of it waves between the two Virgins with yet another title for Mary, "Madre de los Desamparados" (Mother of the Forsaken). The words were added after this photograph was taken. Traditionally, the Virgin of Guadalupe has always been on the side of the disadvantaged, and she is agonizing over the death of the crucified gang member. The second Virgin of Guadalupe, known as the Nativity, is holding a brand new baby surrounded with love and peace. George Yepes emphasized, ". . . what every baby should be born with."

The dichotomies of the spiritual and the savage, good and evil, the personal and the political are depicted. At the very top is the Holy Spirit. It represents enlightenment shining on everybody, but the light is blocked by tormenting clouds. There are two little angel-like figures, but only one has definite wings. Yepes explained, "It could be [a] man, but they are together, mixed up in these tormented clouds." The two figures are holding a banner and touching the Crown of Thorns, and the Sacred Heart is in the center of a cross. Roses are brilliant, and as intense as the violence depicted. There is gentleness and there is savagery. A tender newborn in a rose bud, a vision of hope.

On the left side of the Virgin, women are praying for the lost sons of the barrios. "One of them is completely overwhelmed and one is really in devout prayer." A couple is praying. St. Lucy, martyred by having her eyes gouged out, is crying with the women because of the death of their sons. The dying gang member is wrapped in the red mantle of violent martyrdom. The hands of God are coming down from the roof on both sides of the panels. Christ's fingers are caressing the shoulders of one of the young men.

Virgin Mary Guadalupe George Yepes El TepeyacOn the right side, God's hand is nudging the back of the Pope. The Pope has a cloak with the image of the Pietá. Christ is telling the Pope "Do something . . . Show the way . . . You are the connection between them and me." Next to the head of a baby is the head of a lion, muzzled and restrained because he is seconds away from pouncing on the child. A "tri-figure" personifies the ties of the political with the spiritual. Two angels are sharing the same wing span. One angel is the City of Los Angeles, and the center angel is Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles.

Among these symbols of the political and spiritual, there is a little guardian angel hovering over a small boy. The boy is draped in a rose and he is holding a new declaration, not the Tepeyac of Mexico, rather "El Tepeyac de Los Angeles" - an urban image.

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