Retablo Paintings

Few forms of religious folk art are as abundant or expressive as Mexican Retablos. Our Lady of GuadalupeMost commonly found throughout the states of western Mexico, retablos are small colorful paintings on sheets of tin dedicated to images of Christ or the Virgin and left in well-known shrines as tokens of thanks. They contain stories of dangerous or threatening events from which the subjects have been miraculously delivered through the intervention of the holy image, to whom thanks are reverently offered.

Originating from the Latin word retro-tabula, "behind the altar," retablos first referred to paintings and sculpture placed behind the altars of European Catholic churches in the early Middle Ages.unknown votary, 1822. Retablo painting gradually emerged as a genre in Mexico at the beginning of the seventeenth century as a unique fusion of European and Amerindian traditions. With the introduction of inexpensive tinplate in the midnineteenth century, many more people could afford to have retablos made. Today, retablos are a thriving popular art form that has influenced some of Mexico's leading artists.

The images and texts found in this gallery come from retablos of Mexican migrants who have endured the troubles and difficulties of crossing the border in search of employment in the United States. The retablos themselves are works of art, old and deep-seated religious expressions, depicting the migrants' experience. Retablo of M. Esther Tapia Picon.The texts, which complement the retablos, give a brief explanation for the reason a migrant prayed or gave thanks to a particular Saint or Virgin. The texts capture not only the physical, but also the social phenomena, of Mexican migration. It allows one to see that making the decison to migrate is not simply an economic phenomena, but rather a cultural, emotional, and religious phenomena.