OSR Journal of Student Research

Article Title

Queen of Peace: Decolonizing the art, iconography and legend behind the Virgin Mary of El Salvador


In 2017, artist Sal Barajas portrayed the Virgin Mary as a heroine carrying water to the immigrants crossing the border into the United States. The Virgin’s depiction as an activist is a new one, but not the only persona she has donned throughout the centuries. The virgin Mary is a vital component to the identity of many Latin American countries. Her traits are often associated with the culture and traditions of the country she represents. The current administration’s negative rhetoric against immigrants from El Salvador (among other countries), is only the latest development in a long history of imperialism and conquest. Scholars have debated on the political significance of the Virgin Mary. Some assert that Virgin of Guadalupe is used as a political device with little to no connection to indigenous culture. Others find that despite the overt religious agenda employed by the colonizers, these figures were met with resistance. Many indigenous people expressed their anti-imperialist sentiments through art. My research will explore the virgin Mary of El Salvador, or the Queen of Peace through her art, iconography and myths. By observing the impact race, religion and politics had upon depictions of the Virgin Mary, I hope to gain a more nuanced understanding of the way the Virgin Mary shaped the culture of El Salvador. These narratives and images suggest a complicated dynamic between the colonist portrayal of indigenous people, the Catholic Church’s views on warfare and the nature of colonization in connection to religion, as well as the agency art provides to the colonized peoples, both in the past and the present.

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