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"The Virgin in the New World : Colonial Predicaments in Marian Apparition Stories"

María Elena Díaz, University of California, Santa Cruz

Marian apparition stories and shrines to miraculous images spread throughout Spanish America and other Catholic colonial territories in the New World during the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Some of these regional shrines and cults to Marian images took on a “national” profile as their venerated images became patronesses of new Latin American nations after their Independence in the nineteenth century. Little is known about the multitude of early colonial shrines and their accompanying foundational Marian stories outside the case of Our Lady of Guadalaupe in Mexico. More recently, scholars have begun to show interest  in the stories and histories of other major and minor New World Marian shrines such as Our Lady of Copacabana (Bolivia) and Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre (Cuba). Focusing on these two cases, I examine the general conventions of what should be clearly considered a genre of ‘Marian apparition’ stories, and how some of these generic conventions mutated into New World versions of the narrative. I move on to interrogate what kind of colonial predicaments (other than those related exclusively to evangelization) became embedded in these stories as they traveled to the New World; the relation of these narratives to the particular historical contexts in which they were produced; their appropriation and uses by different groups, including subaltern sectors of society; and the transformations of meaning they underwent as they traveled not only through geographical and social space, but also through time unto the ‘present.’ New World Marian apparition stories were an integral element in the hegemonic Christian/Catholic discourse of Spanish conquerors, but they were also plurivalent narratives in which other colonial predicaments were represented and contested.





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