EVER SINCE READING Sandra Cisneros’s essay “Guadalupe the Sex Goddess” during my junior year of college, I have intended to embody that “sexy mama” goddess energy of “becoming a woman comfortable in her own skin.”
In the essay, Cisneros divulges her relationship with sexuality, religion, and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Cisneros writes that her upbringing in a traditional, Mexican Catholic family led to silence around her own body and sexual expression and caused her, initially, to rebel against Our Lady of Guadalupe, a symbol evoked to stress purity and suppress sexuality. As Cisneros unearthed Guadalupe’s own herstory, particularly her pre-Columbian influences, Cisneros was able to recast and reclaim Guadalupe as a sex goddess—not as the mother of god, but as a goddess herself.
As much as I embrace Cisneros’s later sentiments, I still find myself falling into a culture of guilt, denial, and silence of sexuality, clumsily mirroring Cisneros’s testimonio. Indoctrinated into the puta-virgen (whore-virgin) dichotomy through thirteen years of Catholic school—and reminded during every sacramental upgrade, from my first communion to confirmation, of the dire importance of remaining a virgin until marriage—I still face an ongoing battle to heal my relationship with sexuality. Searching for a guide to illuminate an inner sex goddess, I began to research ways that Guadalupe has been reclaimed in the arts and popular culture. I share examples from my research on ways Latinx/Xicanx people are using Guadalupe to break free from the chastity belt that is often imposed by conservative-masked-as-traditional strains of Christianity, Catholicism, and dominant U.S. religious culture.
Cisneros’s essay, first published in 1996, inspired experimentation with La Lupe symbolism, particularly in aesthetic and artistic creations.
Cisneros’s essay, first published in 1996, inspired experimentation with La Lupe symbolism, particularly in aesthetic and artistic creations. Thanks to Cisneros, La Lupe is everywhere, including clothing. Having evolved over the last few decades, La Lupe of the 2020s is sexier than ever. Moving far beyond the nondescript Guadalupe necklaces their mothers and grandmothers might have worn, Latinxs of today have created a plethora of Guadalupe-inspired adornment. From crop tops, denim jackets, and thongs to face masks, wearing La Lupe on my body has helped me get in touch with my sexuality. Whether dancing in the clubs of Roma Norte in a Guadalupe-patterned bustier to wearing my Guadalupe socks as a reminder of my own sacrality, I find pleasure knowing that La Lupe is with me, blessing rather than condemning my sexual journey.
Guadalupe’s image on clothing even spreads beyond Xicanx/Latinx/Mexicanx cultures, with fast fashion brands like Forever 21 trying to tap into the Guadalupan marketplace by selling bodysuits of La Lupe, ones that echo the aesthetics of Mujerista Market, a trans/Latinx-owned brand that popularized the Guadalupe crop top in 2017.