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

Yemaya, Goddess of The Living Ocean

Gutierrez’s penultimate deity is Yemaya, more frequently known outside of Latinx circles as Yemoja. She is a major water deity in the Yoruba religion and its derivatives such as Santería. Yemaya is venerated as one of the strongest orishas in the pantheon, and is a patroness of women, specifically mothers. She has been syncretized with Our Lady of Regla, a Black Madonna from Spain. Much like the Virgin Mary with whom she is closely associated, she is associated with the colors blue and white and the concept of motherhood.

Gutierrez’s Yemaya is the most subdued of all of her Demons. In this piece, the hair is in a more singular and symmetrical mass, with offshoots being shorter and straighter than those in her other portraits. Of all of the deities the series, Yemaya is that is still often worshipped in modern religions. Out of reverence for this, Gutierrez’s work strives to channel a divine femininity that pays an appropriate amount of respect to Yemaya and those who worship her.

Aside from Yemaya’s background in African diasporic religions, there is one significant difference that sets her apart from the rest of the deities portrayed by Gutierrez. Gutierrez’s portrayal of Yemaya is not explicitly queer. Yemaya does, however, still reveal truths about the queer identity. The stereotype of queer people, specifically gay men, being drawn towards powerful or iconic women is an interesting one based in historical observations, specifically surrounding female celebrities. In this way, Gutierrez portrays Yemaya as a diva, a powerful woman who attracts the love and respect of people in the queer community. And though Yemaya is not necessarily portrayed as a patron of homosexuality, more recent scholars have coded her contemporaries Oshun and Changó with varying aspects of queer sexuality.

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