Crosses in Mexican folk art

Before the Conquest, Cortes stayed for a time in Tenochitlan as a guest of Moctezuma. He requested that he be allowed to enter the shrines at the top of the pyramid. He was shocked at the blood sacrifices performed there and asked to be allowed to erect a cross on the site. This outraged Moctezuma. (William H. Prescott, "History of the Conquest of Mexico," Vol. II, P. 150.)

The Conquest followed shortly thereafter, and the Spanish set about zealously to convert the native Indians to Christianity. The cross was accepted by the Mexican natives as a symbol of Christ and the Church and the Mexican cross became an integral part of Mexican folk art. It is seen everywhere in Mexico -- on home altars, in roadside shrines, worn by the faithful. Mexican crosses are found molded from clay, hand-carved from wood and brightly painted, covered with milagros, in the form of tin and glass nichos, cast in silver and pewter, and in almost every medium imaginable!

Close to the silver cities where the church and Spanish influence were very strong, crosses carved in wood are found which show this Spanish influence.

In Oaxaca, the Indian influence remained much stronger, and the Zapotec inspired folk arts are much more brightly colored and naive. There are many fine craftspersons in clay, so there are many fine clay crosses. Josefina Aguilar's are very colorful and are covered with elements of the passion. In Santa Maria Atzompa, "embroidered" clay crosses are covered with clay figures and flowers. Carved and painted wooden crosses are covered with many different motifs.

The cross shown is "Cruz de Animas, " by Josefina Aguilar.

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