Friday, May 25, 2001
'Our Lady' Protests Planned
By Morgan Lee
Journal Staff Writer
In the wake of the decision to keep an image of a scantily
clad Virgin Mary on display in Santa Fe through October, state museum officials
now are promising to reconsider how they treat sensitive subjects, while local
and national critics of the image are scheduling prayer vigils.
Current rules governing the Museum of New Mexico system's
Sensitive Materials Committee address only how to handle sensitive Native
American materials. By the committee's own admission, it was left ill-equipped
to address all the concerns raised about "Our Lady." The image by
Alma López is derived from the robed, bowed Virgin of Guadalupe but
depicts her wearing a swimsuit of flower petals. It's now on display at the
International Museum of Folk Art.
"We had found that our current policy was too narrowly
based on (the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) and
that a broader base of issues needed to be addressed," Committee Chair
Anita McNeece wrote in a letter introducing final recommendations on Lopez's
work. Documents became available this week when a decision to leave the work
on display and close the larger exhibit "Cyber Arte" early was announced.
A pioneer in repatriating sacred Indian objects, the Museum
of New Mexico which oversees the folk art museum and several others
in Santa Fe confronted new religious issues after "Our Lady"
"This is the first instance of outsiders claiming legitimate
concern and authority over the disposition of another individual's and community's
material," committee member and conservator Dale Kronkright advised his
colleagues in a written message before the recommendation was made. "In
that sense, the committee's consideration of these issues is a very recent
The committee's recommendation to leave "Our Lady"
on display earned criticism from Diocese of Santa Fe Archbishop Michael Sheehan.
Catholic parishioners, strongly critical of Lopez's work, have reserved the
folk art museum parking lot Saturday, posting the requisite $1,050,000 in
liability insurance coverage for use of state property.
The prayer vigil starts with a march across Santa Fe from
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. Henry Casso of Albuquerque said the rally will
concentrate on rededication to the Virgin Mary and "reparation from major
offense to the mother of God under our Lady of Guadalupe."
Organizers of a similar prayer vigil in June hope to attract
visitors from across the country.
The parking lot has been reserved on June 30 by America Needs
Fatima, the Pennsylvania-based campaign responsible for a deluge of more than
12,000 postcards protesting the display of "Our Lady."
Flip through a thick bundle in a box full of cards and the
postmarks lie scattered across the country Cleveland; New York City;
Portland, Maine; Wausau, Wis.
"We've led many other protests before," said Robert
Ritchie, director of America Needs Fatima, part of the Catholic lay group
American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, headquartered
outside York, Pa. "This one really has hit a sensitive point in the soul
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family
and Property's mother chapter was founded in Brazil in 1960 by Plinio Correa
The American society was founded in 1974 "in response
to growing moral corruption in our country" and "to oppose the socialistic
and communistic movement in our country and our world," Ritchie explained.
The organization's Internet site catalogues past boycotts and publicity campaigns
against a public museum in New York, media and educational programs addressing
gay lifestyles, flag burning and national abortion policy under the Clinton
"We're in frequent contact with people in (the Santa
Fe) area that are protesting this and are extremely impressed with the dedication
and enthusiasm that has been demonstrated by local Catholics," Ritchie
said. "They've reacted better than other Catholic communities."
Ritchie said the June 30 event will be peaceful and law abiding.
Recent protests by Santa Fe groups have deposited garbage inside the Museum
of International Folk Art.
Sensitive Materials Committee Member Tom Chavez, who also
is director of the Palace of the Governors, objected this week to local residents
who took their complaints to the media and the streets before talking to the
museum, in acts of "bad faith" negotiations.
The Sensitive Materials Committee recognized the strong feelings
provoked by "Our Lady."
"The image has come to symbolize all challenges to faith
in a secular world," the committee stated in a four-page commentary attached
to its formal recommendation. "The image has become a focus for passionate
rededication of religious faith through protest."
Copyright 2001 Albuquerque Journal