Catarina de San Juan y la China Polana: Estudio Etnografico-Critico

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Author: Leon, Nicolas

Year: 1946

Publisher: Biblioteca Aportatacion Historia, Vargas Rea

Place: Mexico City


114 pages with plates. Octavo (8 1/4" x 6 1/4") in original wrappers. Limited to 100 copes of which this is number 69.

Few figures have so captivated the popular Mexican imagination as the china poblana, yet few are so poorly understood. Her pervasive image is beloved by tourists and schoolchildren, celebrated by folk troupes, lauded in poetry, reenacted in plays and cinema, and extolled by politicians. Originally a symbol of civic pride for the city of Puebla, she went on to epitomize the Republican spirit following the French invasion (1862-1863), and eventually embodied the very essence of Mexico itself. As the designer of an elaborate municipal monument in her glory proclaimed in the 1940s" "[the china poblana] simboliza el Alma Nacional ... el arquetipo Nacional, de la virtuosa mujer mexicana." Some say she was an ancient princess from China, whose luxurious silks inspired the folk costume of today. Others insist that her origins are to be found on Mexican soil, in the Poblan heartland. So who was she? She was in fact two people. The china poblana of the popular imagination - of the brightly embroidered blouse and rebozo shawl - is an invention of the nineteenth century. A symbol of Mexican womanhood, she is related to Spanish prototypes such as the maja immortalized in paintings by Murillo and Goya. In this sense, the name china is simply a generic term for "servant," country girl," or even "concubine" - reflecting her various roles in Mexican legend. Since viceregal times, however, the word china referred more specifically to a person of Asian background. The original china poblana was once as important a symbol of her city and era as her more vivacious successor. Now largely forgotten, Catarina de San Juan (1606-1688) was renowned in her day as an anchorite and visionary, and was consulted by nobles, promoted by great churchmen and venerated by the people. Born into an aristocratic Muslim family in Mughal India, she made the perilous journey to New Spain at an early age and transformed herself into a Counter-Reformation mystic. He funeral, which culminated an elaborate catafalque adorned with paintings and poetry, was attended by some of the most important people in New Spain. Like many holy figures of her day, Catarina became a heroine for a criollo class, desperate for a local saint - even though she was a foreigner herself. The legend of Catarina de San Juan makes compelling reading on its own, but her ecstasies have special relevance to art. Experienced by an intensely visual woman immersed in Counter-Reformation culture, Catarina's apparitions belong as much to the history of viceregal painting as to the literature of mysticism.


Light edge wear with some closed tears, spine age darkened else a very good copy.

SOLD 2016

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