alinka_280The annual pilgrimage to the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City is undertaken by approximately six million people every year. It marks the anniversary of the five apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe that appeared to indigenous man Juan Diego in December 1531 in Tepeyac, the sacred place of the Aztec goddess Tonantzin. Belief in the apparitions signals a turning point in the spiritual conquest of native Mexicans by the Spanish and led to the amalgamation of Tonantzin and the Virgin Mary – the origin of the devotion of Mexicans to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Since Christian conversion in Mexico (arguably one of the most important legacies of the colonial period), the image of the Virgin has been of central importance in the country’s history – used by political leaders as a symbol of faith and freedom during the Independence movement in 1810, and again during the Revolution a century later.

The Virgin of Guadalupe continues to form the crux of our cosmology as Mexicans. This work is an observation of Her role in contemporary visual culture and the vast layers of symbolism transmitted through the iconic image. Through systematic documentation I chose to photograph the pilgrims that are carrying their virgins, usually found in their home. They take their paintings, sculptures, posters and cloaks of the Virgin to the Basicila to be blessed and to give thanks. Removing the portraits from their original background is intended to focus attention on the individual and function as a means to recombine portraits with the other hundreds of pilgrims. The large number of portraits creates a visual maze of similarity and difference, perhaps a metaphor for Mexican identity.


Alinka Echeverria

Alinka Echeverria’s book, Sur Le Chemin de Tepeyac, is out now, published by Actes Sud.