La Nueva Religión, Multiple Printing Sizes, 2018, Digital collage
La Nueva Religión, which translates to The New Religion, is a series of digital collages that merge recognizable religious images of saints with mainstream reggaeton artists. Reggaeton is a popular genre of music in Latin America that was originated in Puerto Rico during the late 1990s. The five collages utilize the portraits of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Saint Helena and Saint Martin. The majority of the original image remains unchanged except for their faces that are replaced by Daddy Yankee, Bad Bunny, Yandel and Don Omar correspondingly. Each collage can be interpreted differently by the viewer, but the decision to merge each artist with that particular saint is in no way arbitrary. For instance, Jesus is known to be the son of God and the second person of the Holy Trinity, therefore he is the central figure of Christianity and is described as the most influential person in history. Likewise, Daddy Yankee is the main pioneer within this music genre, he began his career in the early 2000s and ever since has influenced Latin culture to an enormous extent. Yankee created ethnic anthems that have become part of mainstream western culture and are very often celebrated by a plethora of audiences, he is truly the messiah of reggaeton.
I grew up with the manifestation of all of the symbols depicted in this series of collages, both visually and ritualistically. This created major contradictions in my upbringing as a Latin American woman, since the Catholic values didn’t align at all with the messages in the reggaeton songs. However, both of these had no trouble implementing misogynist messages that are reinforced through memory and repetition. My family, like many Latin American families, has traditional gatherings in which they pray to the Virgin Mary several times a year, for Christmas or when a deceased person needs help on their journey to heaven. These prayers to the virgin Mary, known as “Dios te salve, María,” create unreachable standard for women asking them through constant repetition to be pure, graceful and silent. Additionally, these prayers have patriarchal values that state a women’s worth and recognition comes solely from bearing children. The repetitive nature of the prayers didn’t allow me to realize what I was saying since I was taught only to memorize and repeat the words.
This happened to me in a similar way with the reggaeton songs that I had been singing and dancing to since I was 7 years old. When I moved to New York and started learning about feminist theory I realized there were incredibly misogynist messages in the songs I loved and honestly still love so much. I have struggled with this irrational passion for this music genre because it goes against my values but still remains one of the aspects I enjoy the most from my culture.
With both of these cultural experiences in mind, I created La Nueva Religión, depicting two contradicting elements of the same culture in two dimensional images. The result is very provocative as it comments on how these elements contradict each other in their view of how they portray women's role/image in society.. This is also a major contradiction for me because neither of them are respectful of the goal of feminism: “a movement to end sexist oppression”. Instead, both objectify and control women in very explicit ways. Despite their unrelated origins, both reflect the existing practices that unify the Latin American countries to a minor extent, including: Catholic practices experienced through religion symbolism, justified as sapiential rationality, knowledge characterized by wisdom, especially the wisdom of God, and also the appraisal of contemporary latin music. Both of these reject each other and show major contradictions by even being placed in the same frame, but the truth is that the patriarchal nature connects them demonstrating how through very different cultural practices women were and still are subjugated.