Martine Gutierrez's "Demons" and the Queer Latinx Experience

Tlazoteotl, Eater of Filth

Gutierrez next channels the Aztec deity Tlazolteotl (which Gutierrez spells differently), earth goddess of filth and purification. A deity of contradiction, Tlazolteotl both encourages sins and punishes people for it. One of the two main gods to reside over purification along with Tezcatlipoca, Tlazolteotl was often channeled during the last days of people’s lives to absolve them of their sins and ready them for the after life. Known as the “Deity of Dirt,” Tlazolteotl was offered human excrement, and is often portrayed with black lips because she was portrayed as eating the offerings.

Gutierrez’s interpretation of Tlazolteotl is rife with symbolism and commentary. As a member of the queer community, Gutierrez has experienced prejudice and obstacles related to her gender identity and sexuality. In this way, Tlazolteotl functions as an interesting patron god for Gutierrez. An encourager of sin, Tlazolteotl was known as a patroness of adulterers and STIs. Given the queer community’s history with HIV and AIDS, Gutierrez’s choice to portray Tlazolteotl is surely a commentary on society’s views of sexually transmiteed infections. Since the peak of the AIDs crisis in the 1980’s under the Reagan administration, the disease has continued to be stigmatized. Religious leaders such as Jerry Falwell also said that “AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals” (Press). In more recent years especially, the queer community has tried to rise above the stigma of these diseases and discuss openly sexual health, purifying themselves in a way similar to the process of Tlazolteotl.

Gutierrez’s deity is covered in golden body paint. Perhaps this is a reference to the ochre associated with Tlazolteotl or the “liquid gold” that worshippers would offer to her. When taken in the context of Gutierrez’s greater portfolio, however, it is more likely a unique critique of colonialism. Hernán Cortés and other Europeans searched the New World for gold and other riches. Laying waste to the indigenous people of North America and the Caribbean, these conquerors and conquistadors stole from people they deemed inferior to them and the earth that they laid claim to. Gutierrez’s body is a reclamation of this gold, of the land and lives stolen by European invaders. Like Tlazolteotl, Gutierrez takes something bad and purifies it.

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