Chicanos in Search of their Souls
by Hector Carreon
La Voz de Aztlan
June 4, 2001

Contemporary Chicano art is increasingly manifesting the deep spiritual void that exists in Aztlan today. The trend among some Chicano artists to denigrate what Mexican culture considers holy is indicative of a loss of soul and of the quest to regain it. Sigmund Freud proposed that art could be explained in terms of the unresolved unconscious conflicts and neurosis of the artist. Freud's protegee, Carl Jung, theorized on the "collective unconscious" of the human race and of racial and ethnic groups. If these two giants of modern psychological thought are correct, then the unmistakable conclusion, when interpreting modern Chicano art, is that the sub-culture of La Raza we know as Chicanos, are suffering from some deeply buried unresolved unconscious conflict or collective neurosis. Could this Chicano unresolved conflict or collective neurosis be the much maligned "pocho syndrome" that is related to the search for identity, the search of the self and ultimately the search for one's soul?

For the purposes of this discussion, let us take the following three examples of Chicano contemporary art: 1.David Avalos' "Bullet-Proof Piñata", 2. Alfred J. Quiroz' "Goddess" and 3. Alma Lopez' "La Virgen de Guadalupe". All three pieces of "art" are in one way or another depicting the most revered religious icon of Mexico "La Virgen de Guadalupe" in a sexualized and disrespectful manner. Art Professor David Avalos wrote to La Voz de Aztlan and said, "If you look closely at the "Bullet-Proof Piñata" you’ll notice the visual reference to the vulva and the pattern of Guadalupe’s aura on the surrounding surface of lead". In describing Alfred J. Quiroz' painting, Professor Avalos stated, "On the left side is what appears to be a representation of La Virgen de Guadalupe sculpted from engorged erectile tissue and on the right side a representation of a vulva superimposed on the aura of La Virgen." The digital image of La Virgen created by Alma Lopez, a Chicana lesbian, is one of a women in a bikini made of flowers. Instead of the angel at the feet of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the lesbian artist is depicting herself with bare breasts. What is common to all three works of "art" and what are they saying about the spiritual state of Chicanos today?

Can all three examples above be simply dismissed as "degenerate art" created by "degenerate minds" or is there something more telling here? When is art simply pornography and can some pornography be considered art? Is this very question valid when art is dealing with the sacred? The very fact that all three artists are Chicanos, does this say something about all Chicanos in general? If a male artist paints his daughter in the form of a vagina, would this be considered incest or morally improper? Let us explore possible answers to these questions in the context of Freud and Jung.

According to Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, art can be explained in terms of unresolved unconscious conflicts. What unresolved unconscious conflict could be compelling these three Chicano artist to depict the most sacred icon of Mexico in a sexualized way? The unresolved unconscious conflict is the anger in these artists caused by the "pocho syndrome", which in turn is caused by the neglect they have suffered at the hands of their "MOTHER" country which is Mexico. All three Chicano artists are subconsciously striking out against the "mother" of Mexico, "La Virgen de Guadalupe" because they have felt neglected by her. They are in their own way saying to Mexico "Chinga tu Madre"! An added dimension for Alma Lopez, the Chicana lesbian, is anger towards Christianity which refuses to accept her lifestyle as moral. The unresolved conflict manifests itself in anger and revenge and in striking out against perceived offenders through denigrating what the supposed offenders perceive as sacred. Chicanos have throughout history felt like orphans. They have felt abandoned. They feel no special love for the country which has served as their forced adoptive "mother", the U.S.A. Chicanos have lived in "limbo", neither here nor there. The principal unresolved conflict is an ethnic "collective unconscious" interrupted. Interrupted by the Mexican-American War and economic displacement from the Mother Land.

The Chicano in many ways is still looking for his true identity. He is still searching for his true self. Going back to Mexico is out of the question. The only way out is to bring Mexico here to Aztlan. This we are gradually and slowly achieving. We are bringing the Mother of Mexico, La Virgen de Guadalupe here to Aztlan as well. Someday she will appear here in all her splendor, and all Chicanos will be blessed by her as well. There will be no need to feel anger towards her and we will all honor and respect her. When this is achieved and only then will Chicanos find their true identity and their true selves. Only then will Chicanos find their long lost souls.