Tuesday, December 22, 2015

An Alienated Culture by Dr. Francisco Enriquez

Que es Hispanico?  What is Hispanic?
(Haggerty Museum, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI)

One of the paintings under the sub-title, 'Religion' is The Holy Family During the Journey into Egypt by Miguel Cabrera, 1715-1760’s.

It depicts a very European Mary, Joseph and Jesus fleeing from Herod as it was recommended by the angel who warned Joseph (Matthew 2:13).  Mary, who is wearing a fancy brown hat and beautiful blue tunic is holding baby Jesus in a very relaxed way. She is riding on a donkey that has stopped to drink water from a creek.  Joseph is holding Jesus’s hand who is holding a round fruit in his hand.

They are surrounded by chubby little blond angels and by a more mature angel who is walking with them.  There are no other families with them, no other refugees.  The scene appears to be taking place in a beautiful location, in the early evening hours and they are clearly facing the sunset which explains the details of their faces and the angel’s.

Mr.  Cabrera does not appear to be trying to convey a sense of urgency or alertness, which is what you would expect from a family who is running away from a governor who is trying to destroy your child. Neither does he appear to have created this painting with the average Mexican in mind.  He was clearly painting for the Spaniards or those who pretended to be of Spanish ancestry.  And the message was “we are not concerned, we are not even rushing”; the story was supposed to represent an “escape from danger” but in the here and now, we own this country [Mexico], its people and its resources and therefore we take our time and we enjoy it whenever we so desire, even if we are supposed to be in danger.

This is a contrasting story when compared to the real dangers that people from Mexico and Latin America have been escaping from.  Just to name a few ones:  the North America Free Trade Agreements that inundated the Mexican markets with government subsided corn, leaving the small Mexican farmers no chance of competition.  The final consumers of illegal drugs in the US who provide the incentive for the cruel and heartless drug cartels to terrorize, kidnap, rape and assassinate civilians in Mexico, Central and South America.  The firearms industry that has sold the weapons used by the drug dealers and that are used daily to intimidate and kill people who get in their way. The local governments that are in bed with the cartels and the firearm industry, etc.

When we think of families running for their lives, and for the lives of their children, the images of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Libya  are more likely to come to our mind.  According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 500,000 migrants have fled to Greece and Turkey, many of them in flimsy boats or rafts,  a “truly biblical migration” that has not faced a humane response with the exception of Germany.  Many European countries such as Hungary, Austria and Britain have closed their doors to immigrants and now France and the US have hardened to the appeals of refugees.

This situation is not new; in May 1939, the United States, Cuba and other countries closed their doors to 930 Jewish refugees from Europe on the St. Luis Ship from Hamburg.  They were returned to Antwerp, Belgium, where many subsequently died in the Jewish Holocaust.

When we think of refugees, the image of a 3 year old Syrian boy, Aylan, who washed up on beach in Turkey would be more appropriate at representing the struggle of refugees.  I doubt that Mr. Cabrera, even if he lived in this day and age would have chosen that one for his painting.

Dr. Francisco Enriquez is a pediatrician in the inner city of Milwaukee. 

Attributed to Miguel Cabrera, Mexican, 1695-1768
The Holy Family During the Journey into Egypt, 1715-1760s
Oil on copper, 34 1/4 x 28 in.  72.20
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Alfred Bader
Collection of the Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

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