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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Angels on the Border

An exhibition of religious paintings by Mexican immigrants at La Casita

Oct. 18, 2012, by Judy Holmes

An example of a retablo on exhibit at La Casita Cultural Center as part of "Angels on the Border"
An example of a retablo on exhibit at La Casita Cultural Center as part of "Angels on the Border"

La Casita Cultural Center presents Angels on the Border, an exhibition of religious paintings commissioned by Mexican immigrants from 1912 to 1996. The opening reception will be 6 to 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 9, 2012 at La Casita Gallery, 109 Otisco St., Syracuse. The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, will continue through February 2013. Gallery hours are noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

A discussion, led by Amy Lutz, associate professor of sociology in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School, will be presented from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15 at the La Casita Gallery.  The discussion is free and open to the public.

Created on tinplate, zinc, wood, or copper, the Angels on the Border retablos typically portray the blessings of the Virgin Mary and the Trinity’s protection of immigrants in their struggles across the border. Retablos are traditionally created by professional retablo artists, immigrant relatives, or the immigrants themselves and are displayed inside Catholic churches or in homes as a testament to a miracle granted or favor received. The works include text that describe the miracle, an image of the place where the miracle occurred, and an image of the deity to whom the miracle is ascribed.

The exhibition was curated by the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton University, co-directed by Jorge Durand, professor of social anthropology at the University of Guadalajara (Mexico), and Douglas S. Massey, professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University.  A companion book, Miracles on the Border (University of Arizona Press, 1995), contains 40 color photographs and an analysis of 124 contemporary retablo texts. The book received the Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association, El Paso, Texas.

Angels on the Border is presented as part of the 2012 Ray Smith Symposium “Moving Borders: The Culture and Politics of Displacement in and from Latin America and the Caribbean.” The Ray Smith Symposium is enabled by a major bequest from the estate of Ray W. Smith ’21 to Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences.

About La Casita
La Casita is a vibrant cultural, artistic, and educational center supported by Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Chancellor.  The Center is committed to promoting and documenting the arts and culture of Central New York’s Latino/Latin American community through collaborative programming in the visual and expressive arts, education, and community activism.