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La Virgen de Guadalupe and El Indio Juan Diego on Race and Capitalism
2003 | 05:06 min. | DV | Color
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Inspired by La Virgen de Guadalupe, San Juan Diego, and Nuestra Señora de J-Lo, this music video was created to answer burning questions, such as: How come El Indio Juan Diego became a white man for his saintly Vatican image?, Is the Pope concerned about losing the Latino market?, What’s up with $600 designer Virgen de Guadalupe jeans?, and Are we fooled by the props G-Loop’s got? Is she, is she, Lupe from the Block?

Lupe & JuanDi from the Block is a mock music video that explores two main themes: the “whitening” of Latinos when they cross over into mainstream pop culture, on the one hand, and the hyper-commercialization and commodification of religious icons on the other. We worked with two main figures to create a satirical intervention around these themes: La Virgen de Guadalupe, Patrona de México, and “el indio” Juan Diego, who had recently been canonized by the Vatican (July 2002). We used La Virgen de Guadalupe to comment on the commodification of religion, as we find her image everywhere: on t-shirts, designer jeans, postcards, stickers, tattoos, handbags, towels, even stick-shifts for cars, you name it; she is the Frida Kahlo of pop religiosity, the cool hipster-friendly Latina virgen superstar. Juan Diego, the indígena to whom this Virgen first appeared, has now also made it to sainthood, but with a major make-over: he has been whitened in the Vatican’s official image, which erases his indigenous traits and makes him look like a Spaniard. This reminds us of the almost-necessary (or so it seems) whitening of Latina pop stars when they “make it” in the music industry, as is the case with blonde-ified Shakira, Christina Aguilera, and even J-Lo, not to mention other older, “closet” Latinas such as Rita Hayworth and Raquel Welch.

Lupe & JuanDi from the BlockRewriting J-Lo’s pop hit, “Jenny from the Block” (2002), in which she argues that, despite her many diamonds and cash, she’s still the same old Bronx girl she once was, we created “Lupe & JuanDi from the Block”, which begins with the “creation” of Saint Juan Diego by mafia-sounding Vatican intelligence (the Pope and Emilio Estefan): knowing the Catholic Church is in crisis, losing many of their fieles to indifference or Evangelicals, and knowing the importance of the Latino market, they decide to canonize Juan Diego; after all, it did work for them during the Conquista when they created Guadalupe. The Pope and Emilio Estefan break into Juan Diego’s apartment, where they give him a cross-over make-over and canonize him on the spot. Excited over his transformation, he runs to his life-size statue of la Virgen de Guadalupe to see what she thinks. But she is not at all thrilled. The music beats begin, and Guadalupe accuses him of having sold out: she says he got the “Vatican White-Out, took the easy route”, while she was able to remain “brown” and still be successful. As a retort, in hip-hop battle style, Juan Diego responds that she’s the one who has sold out, becoming a commodity & displayed everywhere, from the corner store to the 50-cent lighter to the chic Mexican restaurant décor. “So big deal if my face is on a wok,” she responds, “I’m still, I’m still Lupe from the block.” –Juan Diego comes right back at her: “Though I used to be an indio and now I’m not /No matter where I go, I know where I came from”. Who will win the battle?…

WINNER, Best Short Fiction, CineFestival 2004Also selected as part of the Smokin Mirrors Film Festival in LA (2003); the L-Factor exhibit at Exit Art Gallery in NYC (2004), the Women of Color Film Festival in NYC (2004); the ‘SpanicAttack festival in Lima Perú (2004) and NYC (2005); the LART’s Arte con Filo in NYC (2004), the Havana Film Festival in New York (2005); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in SF (2005); Galería de la Raza in SF (2005); Muestra Nacional de Arte 2005-2006 Rewind… Rewind… Video arte puertorriqueño at the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña in San Juan, Puerto Rico (2006);VIII SALON INTERNACIONAL DE ARTE DIGITAL in La Habana, Cuba (2006); Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO) (2006); Fundación de Arte Contemporáneo de Montevideo, Uruguay (2006); Instituto Cervantes in Brasília, Brasil (2007)

CREDITS: Written, directed, produced by Fulana (Cristina Ibarra, Marlène Ramírez-Cancio, Lisandra Ramos Grullón and Andrea Thome); edited by Cristina Ibarra; CAST: Andrea Thome, Marlène Ramírez-Cancio, Luis Grullón, Lisandra Ramos-Grullón, Aroosha Rana, Herminia Collado, Miguel Luciano, Adriana Vázquez. For more, see rolling credits at the end of video.