I took the train downtown yesterday. I had planned on using the trip as the basis of a response to the “Buying Nothing New” post at Just Nous. I was going to advocate that we can live more simply by periodically getting out of our cars and taking public transportation.
But that’s not where I was taken yesterday.
My plan for the day was to take the train downtown, have some lunch, and then go to the city’s main library. In between my lunch at a favorite old diner and my arrival at the library, I took a shortcut down one the oldest streets in the city. The street itself was laid down in the 18th century and many of the buildings around it date to the mid 19th century. Though a historical monument, the street is mostly lined with kitschy souvenir stands and small eateries.
However, I noticed a new store: an art gallery. It was quite unlike the other shops on the street. On a whim, I detoured inside the old brick building. It was like entering a womb. The gallery attendant, a warm and friendly woman, immediately greeted me and ask if I was a tourist or a local. We chatted for a few minutes before she went off to assist some other customers. As she waited on them, I browsed the merchandize: high-end ceramics and textiles from Latin-America and paintings and other art pieces created by local Latino/a artists. Many of the art pieces was laden with religious iconography. I found myself browsing through some prints by an artist who specializes in re-interpreting images of La Virgen de Guadalupe.
The attendant returned to me, and we engaged in a discussion of the images in the artwork. She pointed out some of the details in the original image of La Virgen and how they would have had significance for the indigenous people who first laid eyes on her. The woman explained that La Virgen was actually the Aztec mother goddess Tonantzin depicted as the Mother of Jesus.
Suddenly, she began telling me her spiritual appreciation of the images. I was surprised that she would tell this to me, a gringa stranger, and because of the deeply personal nature of what she told me, I will not repeat it here. Just let me say that though I do not believe as she believes, I fully resonated to what she said and the image that invoked it.
The original image of La Virgen, which is currently in Mexico City.
I ended up purchasing a small print of a local artist’s interpretation of La Virgen. I felt the need to take this image home with me.
As I said, this day’s journey did not end up as I had expected. I left a concrete and chrome train platform and was taken back in time to an age of brick and adobe, into another culture, and ended up sharing a woman’s spiritual journey.
I plunged into a sacred, interior geography, and I think I might have met a goddess there.
Not bad for a Thursday.
ljgloyd (c) 2012
Postscript: the Facebook page that I was given for the gallery is not a working link, and I tried Googling the name of the gallery but with no results.
It’s as if the gallery doesn’t exist. Very strange. Or maybe not.