David Tavarez, Professor of Anthropology and Director of Latin American and Latino/a Studies, talks about the exhibition Miracles on the Border: Retablos of Mexican Migrants to the United States, on view at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center September 5 - December 13, 2020.
Usually commissioned from local artists working anonymously, retablos feature a narrative that is both written and pictorial. First-person vignettes, dated and inscribed with the supplicants’ names, draw on a traditional vocabulary such as “doy infinitas gracias” (I give infinite thanks). In the luminous illustrations above the inscriptions, earthly figures share space with holy images and a dreamlike representation of the miracle. As they accumulate on church walls, both in Mexico and the United States, these votives become public records of private faith, fears, and familial attachments.