La Historia de Amor Calendar
In 1994, the gay and lesbian Latino arts group known as VIVA did a calendar project addressing support for and discussion of HIV in the Latino community. Based on the concept of the calendarios which are given out by Mexican bakeries, carnecerias, markets and restaurants VIVA wanted an image that was culturally a synthesis of both our Latino/Mexican heritage and our identity as queer/gay. I chose to reinterpret an image by the Mexican painter Jesus Helguera whose work illustrating Aztec mythology (albeit in a classical western European method) has been reproduced for decades on calendars. The calendars have become a staple of Chicano popular culture and the images by Helguera, iconic references to a mythological indigenous Mexican heritage. The image La Leyenda deLos Vocanes was painted in 1940 and illustrates the Aztec legend of the warrior Popocapetl who desired to marry the princess Ixtaccihuatl but upon returning from battle where his warrior feathers were rightfully earned, he finds that the princess has killed herself thinking he had died in battle. Filled with grief he carries her body to the top of the mountains expecting that the falling snow and steam emanating at the top might reawaken his dead princess. She never does awake and their two silhouettes, her lifeless body and his, hunching over in grief form the snow-covered mountains bearing their names. This specific illustration, Painted in 1940, this specific image has been borrowed by many Chicano artists since the 1970’s so the appropriation of the image for our calendar was not a new idea. What was “new” was my replacing the female figure of the princess with that of a young man and unlike the Helguera painting which shows a pale lifeless princess almost as white as the surrounding snow, I have the young man golden brown, still alive, looking like he is sleeping under the gaze of the warrior whose arm encircles the young Aztec. Visually the implication is one of hope. Unlike the original image death has not conquered the youth and the warrior’s countenance is of concern and caring rather than grief. I titled my image La Historia de Amor, implying homoeroticism going back centuries among indigenous peoples prior to the Spanish conquest. Underneath the image is the edict: “Apoya tus hermanos con VIH / Support your brothers with HIV”. Depending on one’s perspective it can be read as encouraging support for our gay brothers, or support for one’s siblings or friends, countering the stigma that HIV/AIDS still carries in many Latino and Mexican communities.