The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 462
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Dunnington seeks to provide a comprehensive work on New Mexican devo-
tion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, "the premier Marian advocation and symbol in
the state" (p. xi). Her sources were primarily interviews and an impressive num-
ber of published works in various disciplines.
The first chapter provides an excellent summary of the disputed origins of the
Mexican devotion to Guadalupe, beginning with the prior but distinct Guadalu-
pan devotion in Spain. Dunnington carefully assesses the evidence for and
against the authenticity of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe said to
have occurred in Mexico City in 1531. While refraining from drawing her own
final conclusions, she does present persuasive evidence that the origin of both
the title and the image of Guadalupe are best understood through European
rather than indigenous antecedents. What she does not appear to take sufficient-
ly into consideration, however, is the possible compatibility of the image and its
symbology for an indigenous-friendly interpretation such as that which evolved
out of the apparition accounts.
Dunnington's primary interest is the vibrant symbolic function of the
Guadalupe devotion in New Mexican society itself. Most of her remaining chap-
ters describe the manifold expressions of Guadalupan devotion in New Mexico
in recent decades and their meaning to the people. Just as Timothy Matovina
has emphasized the role of the Hispanic Catholic tradition including Guadalupe
for ethnic continuity in San Antonio, Dunnington points out that in New Mexi-
co Guadalupe is a "vital emblem of ethnic and religious loyalties" for Hispanics
(p. xvii). She also notes, however, that the devotion is gaining adherents among
other ethnicities and religions. While conversant with current theories about the
feminine symbolism of Guadalupe, Dunnington concludes that the "traditional
and pious" meanings of refuge, grace, and guidance are "still the dominant
form" of Guadalupan symbolism for women in New Mexico (p. 164). She there-
fore holds that topics like those addressed by Jeanette Rodriguez, Our Lady of
Guadalupe: Fazth and Empowerment among Mexzcan-American Women (University of
Texas Press, 1994), are "inapplicable, at least at present, to New Mexico" (p.
xii). Furthermore, whereas in Mexico itself Guadalupe "clearly evolved from a
mother of miracles to a defender of the disenfranchised, the oppressed, and the
suffering innocent" (p. 154), Dunnington's assessment is that in New Mexico
she has not been used to champion political or social justice causes. She does al-
low, however, that recent activist murals and gang use of the image may herald a
more political meaning.
As the previous comments demonstrate, Dunnington rightfully stresses that
Guadalupe is "an ever evolving" symbol (p. 150), whose variable meanings "find
some explanation when considered in the context of specific social venues and
changing historical contexts" (p. 152). It is all the more surprising, therefore,
that she presents such an a-historical and non-socially-located account of the
Guadalupe devotion in New Mexico. Although she repeatedly claims that the de-
votion has been pervasive in New Mexico since at least the 169os, she reports at
one point that "mention of [Guadalupe] in New Mexican records is sparse until
recently" (p. 45). Relying upon published studies, she only notes five instances
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/530/: accessed August 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.