Dear Yolanda Lopez,

The reason for my letter is that I am currently taking a Chicano studies course at Loyola Marmyount University titled Chicanas/Latinas in the US and I have the wonderful task along with my fellow classmates to select a Chicana artist, writer or activist (that does not currently have a personal website) and build a website containing major information about their work and themselves.  Considering that you are a very well known and established Chicana artist that does not currently have a website the website that my class and I are building will be very helpful to students who want to do some research on you and your work. So far we have read and discussed two books titled Chicana Art: The Politics of Spiritual and Aesthetic Altarities by Laura E. Perez and Borderlands/La Fronterea: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldua, which I am sure you are familiar with, and there are several concepts discussed in these two books that have reminded me of some of the work that you have created.

I conducted several searches on the Internet to find out more in-depth information about yourself and your work due to the fact that I was not able to attend the presentation that was conducted on March 4th at UCLA with you and Dr. Davalos, which my class had the opportunity to attend. From the research that I have conducted and after reading the two books I selected one major concept from each book that I would like to present to you and relate these two concepts to your artwork. The first concept comes from Chicana Art: The Politics of Spiritual and Aesthetic Altarities which is Nepantla, and the second concept is Coatlicue state which comes from Borderlands/La Fronterea: The New Mestiza.

Out of the artwork that you have created the one that most drew me to the two concepts of Nepantla and Coatlicue state is the Guadalupe series, which also happens to be one of your most noted pieces of art. The way that you have incorporated your grandmother, your mother, and yourself in each portrait shows culture and the strength of Hispanic women. The way in which you portrayed your grandmother, mother, and yourself by defying the traditional image of the Virgin of Guadalupe showed you breaking the mold that has been set on women and bringing out a sense of emancipation for women, which is what reminded me of the concept of Nepantla. Nepantla is a place in between where people find themselves not knowing whether to move forward or whether to stay in the position that they are currently in. It is being caught up in the middle in two different situations not knowing the outcome of selecting either one and maintaining the sense of being in the middle and torn between two ways.

Overall Nepantla references endangered people, culture, and gender that have suffered through marginalization and engage in resistance and for me your series encompassed all these elements. I have noticed that your series embraces the power of women in such a strong manner through the incorporation of the Virgin of Guadalupe and how you offer to others to rethink the roles of women and the values that have been created for women. You encompass the old traditional indigenous culture with the snake and the Virgin of Guadalupe that ties Mexicans to their roots. 

For me the most empowering piece in the series was your self-portrait as the new mestiza. You show yourself as a strong and active woman, unlike the other pieces, with running shoes and taking long strides taking control. Like I mentioned before you illustrates the indigenous culture through the serpent in your hand and the traditional characteristics associated with the Virgin of Guadalupe, and through all this you show yourself in middle of this two elements taking charge of your surroundings. I love how you are able to show viewers the asserting power of the Virgin of Guadalupe but overcome the passive characteristics that have been associated with her. You are able to call women into action and overcome the resistance but also embrace the past with the present culture that Mexican women find themselves to be caught in.

In the piece were you incorporate your grandmother as the older mestiza wearing the traditional dress that the Virgin of Guadalupe wears and sitting on the cloak that drapes the Virgin of Guadalupe holding only the skin of a snake. In yourself-portrait you showed the snake but here you show the power of your grandmother of how she has already killed the snake and has skinned it as well. Each piece in your series has its own sense of empowerment. Even though you illustrate your grandmother in passive manner by the way that she is sitting and the way she has her hands crossed her power lies within the skinned snake. The old mestiza lies within the indigenous roots unlike yourself-portrait.           

In the last piece of your series you show your mother as a mestiza sewing the cloak of the Virgin of Guadalupe also dressed in the traditional Virgin of Guadalupe dress. In this piece you show an example of the everyday life that woman goes through. In this image I don’t see any reference to the old indigenous roots. Rather you show several roses that indicate reference to the Virgin of Guadalupe. I am not sure but I believe that you do show the skin of the serpent in this piece but it is not very


apparent. It looks like the serpent is rapped around the sewing machine. Here you show morereference to the Virgin of Guadalupe but show the evolving women going from the passive looking women in the older mestiza piece to a working role model in this mestiza piece, and then of course you show yourself as the new mestiza overcoming boundaries and redefining the roles and assumptions of women. Overall, throughout your Guadalupe series I see the concept of Nepantla in the way you incorporate the traditional religious aspects of a Chicana along with the new sense of self-assertiveness that is being created. Each woman is in between the expected religious aspects of a Latina and  moving towards a more bold and powerful sense of self.

In Chicana Art: The Politics of Spiritual and Aesthetic Altarities the focus that it takes towards the concept of Nepantla is by showing various artist that have incorporated this concept into their artwork and how they have elaborated on this concept by enhancing it. There is an artist artwork called The Confession Trilogy, which reminded me of your Guadalupe series. It encompasses the similar message that you are portraying in your work of how Latina women are stuck between religious and social discourses of gender, which ultimately shows the idea of Nepantla.

Another piece art that you have created that has reminded of the concept of Nepantla is your piece titled Nuestra Madre. Again you illustrated the indigenous culture/religious factors with the Virgin Guadalupe. In this peace you connect the past with the present. I read on the Internet that this particular piece is an offering to Chicanas and Chicanos to rethink their roles as men and women, and the values that they have created for themselves. You also claimed about how we are continuously reinventing ourselves, which is what the Chicano movement is all about by bringing social, political, and economic justice.

Out of both of the books that we have read so far in class I would have to say that I have enjoyed more Borderlands/La Fronterea: The New Mestiza than Chicana Art: The Politics of Spiritual and Aesthetic Altarities. The concepts and ideas that are presented in Borderlands are much more relatable and presented in a much more understandable manner. One of the concepts as I mentioned before that reminded me of your artwork that Gloria Anzaldua mentions in Borderlands is Coatlicue state. Anzaldua states directly that Coatlicue is the consuming internal whirlwind, the symbol of the underground aspects of the psyche. Coatlicue is the mountain, the Earth Mother who conceived all celestial beings out of her cavernous womb. The way in which Anzaldua describes Guadalupe and in the way you artistically portray your grandmother, mother, and yourself in your Guadalupe series shows how the Virgin of Guadalupe is taken away from her traditional image and illustrated with supernatural qualities. Anzaldua depicts Coatlicue as the eagle and the serpent, heaven and the underworld, life and death, mobility and immobility, beauty and horror. You encompass the serpent in every single piece in your Guadalupe series by showing that each woman is overcoming resistance and letting their strength resonate through the serpent. Just as you Anzaldua identify herself with Coatlicue through the expression of her writing you portray yourself and your other members in a parodist form with the Virgin of Guadalupe. 

Overall I have found your work to be very interesting and very compelling. Every piece that I have looked at sends a strong message to viewers. Your Guadalupe series has been one of the most fascinating pieces that have ever studied and transcended the strength and fight that Chicanas have experienced through out the time and have progressed. It has been a pleasure writing to you and sharing the information that I have learned and researched.

Vianett Estrada