Mary and Borders

Refuge: Borderlands and the Blessed Virgin

Devotion to the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ, has been present in border spaces throughout history. In her own lifetime, Mary fled with her family to Egypt to escape the Massacre of the Innocents. As Pope Francis stated, “the plight of the Holy Family calls to mind the sufferings of the many men, women and children escaping war and persecution.” In contemporary times, migrants carry Marian statues and rosaries to guide their perilous and desperate journey across the Mexico - US border. The images in this selection encourage the viewer --as students did for this project-- to consider Mary’s presence in boundary spaces, both literal and conceptual. While some images may challenge traditional notions about Marian devotional spaces, these images and the projects created by students remind us that we can deepen our understanding of the Blessed Virgin--and cultures and communities--by encountering her at unexpected intersections. For more information about the Marian Library, please visit their website

This exhibit was originally planned as an in-person physical exhibit featuring both the images (above) from the Marian Library's collection along with the student projects. Due to COVID-19 the physical exhibition was canceled. This page includes the images that students engaged with for the project, which were also originally slated to be featured in the in-person exhibit before COVID. 

(1) Rosaries 42, Neutral
From the El Sueño Americano project
Tom Kiefer
Photograph on cotton rag 

(2) Virgen Bandana
From the El Sueño Americano project
Tom Kiefer
Photograph on cotton rag 

(3) Virgen de Guadalupe
From the El Sueño Americano project
Tom Kiefer
Photograph on cotton rag

These three photographs are from the El Sueño Americano (The American Dream) series by Tom Kiefer. Kiefer is a janitor at an immigration detention center in Arizona near the US - Mexico border. He photographs items that are considered “non-essential” by immigration authorities, confiscated from migrants, and thrown in the trash. Many sacred items like Marian statues and rosaries are often among the few carefully chosen objects that support their owners' desperate and dangerous journey but are later discarded by immigration authorities.

(4) José y Maria
Everett Patterson
Printed poster

Comic artist Everett Patterson depicts the parents of Jesus in a contemporary urban setting. As an illustrator, Patterson chose very wide vanishing points which he refers to as “middle-class white people perspective.” He notes that “Rather than feeling immersed in the scene, the viewer is looking at it as if from across the street or from the warmth and safety of his or her passing car. I have a small hope that this Christmas image will come to mind when we see other ‘down and out’ people huddling outside of gas stations, reminding us that our Savior’s parents (and indeed, Jesus himself) were at one time similarly troubled.”  The image is packed with clever biblical references -- see if you can spot them all.

(5) Guadalupe
Cintia Alejandra Segovia
From the Lo Que Me Hubiera Gustado Ser A Los 8 años series
Inkjet print, acrylic, and mini-lights

This self-portrait of Mexican-American artist Cintia Alejandra Segovia juxtaposes the traditional Guadalupean green mantle with stars, the children's tale of Little Red Riding Hood, and images of modern consumerism. Segovia says that this image “reflects the internal dialogue and struggle present in all Latinx, at least of my generation, who were bombarded with western consumerism and the virtuous idols we were encouraged to emulate.”

(6) Mary 2018
Ben Wildflower 
Linocut print on cotton paper

In this image, printmaker Ben Wildflower depicts Mary, a mother who took her baby across a border to flee persecution, holding up a border fence. This image reminds us that Mary is a woman of strength, who experienced suffering, flight, and exile in her lifetime. It serves as a reminder of her intercessory role in the lives of modern-day refugees whose fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group causes them to cross borders. Read the Marian Library's interview with Ben Wildflower here

(7) La Sagrada Familia
Kelly Latimore 
Print on paper

Kelly Latimore reimagines the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt in a contemporary setting at the US-Mexico border.

(8) Untitled 
Man with Guadalupe tattoo
From the Sábados de Gloria series
Francisco Mata Rosas 
Black-and-white photograph

Mexico City-based photographer Francisco Mata Rosas depicts the human body as a space for faith expression in this black and white photograph. Guadalupe tattoos are common among devotees, especially in Mexico. Notice: This image may not be suitable for younger viewers as it depicts a man in a bathing suit with a tattoo.


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