Tagged Contemporary Hispanic Art

Guadalupe Procession California by Cristina Acosta

Guadalupe Procession to Celebrate December

I walked 25 miles yesterday with thousands of people marching for love. Despite walking the 25 miles, I did not finish the Guadalupe procession which zig-zagged it’s way around the Coachella Valley in Southern California to the Our Lady of Solitude Church in Palm Springs, California to it’s sister church in Coachella. I knew the distance from my house to that church was a bit over 20 miles, so I put myself in that headspace and filled a backpack with water and food. I set my orthotics into my best pair of walking shoes and prepared clothing for a day that would span from a cold desert morning across the hot sun of the day.

The Guadalupe Procession began at 6 a.m., about dawn in the town of Palm Springs, California. Six hours later I was walking against the nylon rope that shaped the serpentine line of thousands of people against the right curb of the concrete highway and wondered when we would arrive. I checked my smartphone and saw that we’d traveled about 15 miles (including my walk from home to the Procession) and thought the church must be about 7 miles ahead.

Despite beginning the Guadalupe Procession at the front of the group, bathroom breaks had put me at the back of the procession by the time I reached 15 the mile mark. Getting in and out of the porta-potty line was the time-suck dark side of proper hydration.

Guadalupe Procession California by Cristina Acosta
Guadalupe Procession California by Cristina Acosta

The desert sun was beating down surprisingly strong for a December day, reflecting back up relentlessly from the concrete road and my feet were starting to swell. I introduced myself to the man at the end of the line who was carrying about 20 pounds of coiled rope over his left shoulder as he walked the end of the procession. His name was Enrique and he smiled at the surprise on my face when he told me the procession was 36 miles long.

That was a surprise. Apparently the different Coachella Valley cities the Guadalupe Procession zigzagged through required a path that kept the procession of thousands away from the succession of stoplights on Highway 111, adding about 13 miles to the 22 mile journey. For the first time, I wondered if I would be able to complete the Guadalupe Procession.

I didn’t. The second stop of the Procession was in Indian Wells across from The Tennis Gardens. My smartphone told me I’d walked 25 miles. I’d been fantasizing about ibuprofen pills for the past hour and I knew that pushing my middle-aged body to the finish line, though possible, would exact more of a toll than I wanted to pay. So, I stopped.

cristina-acosta-2016-guadalupe-processionI sent prayers to all of those people in the world who don’t have the option to stop when they are miserable. Prayers to the people of Syria, trapped in a city they can’t walk away from and those refugees around the world who put their lives on the line to walk even one more step into the unknown.

Watching my fellow travelers in the Guadalupe Procession I was reminded of the humanity we all share. And I was overcome with the love that thousands of fellow travelers in the journey displayed for others. December 12th is the Catholic Feast Day for Our Lady of Guadalupe, a day of processions and prayer that can include a walk if you are so inclined. No need to be Catholic to join, anyone is welcome.Walking in the Guadalupe Procession was a beautiful way to celebrate the month of Christmas.

Day of the Dead is my Personal New Year

October is the countdown month to Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead on November 1st, the day after Halloween. Skeletons, orange marigolds and sugar candy skulls have slipped into the mainstream Halloween weekend decor as Dia de los Muertos gains ground nationally paired with the rise of Latinos’ increasing political and economic clout.

It wasn’t always this way. I was raised Catholic in Southern California during the 1960’s, when Halloween and All Saints Day were the norm. All Saints Day on November 1st and All Souls Day on November 2nd where the Catholic/Christian stand-ins for what some Christians consider the more pagan roots of the Day of the Dead celebration.

Despite my early indoctrination, I embraced Dia de los Muertos as an adult when my religious beliefs became my own. It became an especially significant holiday for me beginning in my early 30’s, when I realized that a pattern had formed the prior 10 years of my life. Though the world is a mystical place 24/7, October is for me, a month of particularly unusual events.

Basically, the weird, mystical and synchronistic enter my life more often in October. A letter lost in the mail for three years from a deceased cousin arrives in October. I toured an historic home in Espanola, New Mexico during October and when I entered the sala/living room I was met with a vision straight from a repetitive dream I’d had during my entire pregnancy three years earlier. During October of the following year, I learned that my ancestors where the family who had built that historic home. Standing in an airport another October I hear my name and a man I last saw 30 years earlier as a boy on the school bus introduces himself. Octobers have filled the well of my psyche for the year to come.

October is the month of preparation for Dia de los Muertos. To prepare, I take an extra effort to listen as the spirits of my ancestors visit me in October. I expect them to leave me with an epiphany or revelation about the course of my soul. Or maybe just a new “old” friend. This year felt a bit different. I didn’t feel like I was getting any new insights or revelations and the month was counting down.

This October, my epiphany came last night in a dream on Halloween night, the eve of Dia de los Muertos. I had a dream about death and falling. The dream sat me straight up in bed from a deep sleep. It also let me know that I had passed through a significant portal. I was happy. My dreams were changing. Parts of the old me that no longer served my growth and happiness had moved on.

Years ago, I was camping with friends and awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of laughter.  I had no idea until then that my friend, Eddy, laughed regularly in his sleep. His wife assured me that he often woke her up with his sleep-laughing at the beginning of their relationship, but after a few years she was used to it. To me, sleep-laughing was a revelation. I had heard of it and even experienced a few laughs here and there, but consistently giggling with happiness while dreaming most nights of the week was a new to me.

There is a kind of success in that type of joy. Though Eddy passed in an accident a few years ago, I find myself thinking about his sleep-laughter. I am ready for new dreams. I can feel them coming.

Contemporary Hispanic art Guadalupe by Cristina Acosta

Contemporary Hispanic Spiritual Religious Art

Contemporary Hispanic retablos are altars that celebrate the North American madonnas of La Conquistadora and the Guadalupe and others that Cristina creates with precious metals, beeswax, oil paint and 22kt gold glazed antique ceramic mosaic on antique wood panels.

Retablos range from 18″ tall to over 52″ tall.

Artist Statement:This religious art is my expression of spirit, ancestral family and of my faith in creation. Raised within the traditions of Catholicism, I’ve created these retablos (altars) to explore the archetypal sacred feminine in the form of the Marion figures that blend the European image of Mary with the Native American Indigenous female creations figures. I do this by presenting the traditional madonnas of La Conquistadora and La Guadalupe with American Indian symbols. As I am a blend of Spanish, Native American and Anglo, creating Marian figures that represent this blend of cultures naturally flows from me. I’ve been making altars for over 30 years and consider them a visual rendition of my spiritual practice. When I paint them, I meditate on aspects of the divine and let the image change and flow as my inspiration moves my hands.

These contemporary Hispanic retablos are part of the traditional lineage of all of my ancestors. Because I work from traditions rather than repeat them exactly, these retablos fit into a concept that is the New Mexican Spanish tradition of the ex-voto. An ex-voto is a tradition of creating an image to commemorate life’s blessing with an altar sharing the blessing. My expression of the divine feminine is my way to express my gratitude for the blessings of life.

La Conquistadora with Dine Spider Woman and Puebloan Corn Maiden by ©Cristina Acosta
La Conquistadora with Dine Spider Woman and Puebloan Corn Maiden by ©Cristina Acosta
Guadalupe with Crown - The World is Her Heart
Running Mediation - The Feminine Divine by ©Cristina Acosta
Guadalupe with a Tear by ©Cristina Acosta
Our Lady of Czestochowa by ©Cristina Acosta
Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta by ©Cristina Acosta
La Sirena Azul The Blue Mermaid by ©Cristina Acosta
Guadalupe by Cristina Acosta
Guadalupe with Child by ©Cristina Acosta
La Sirena Verde The Green Mermaid by ©Cristina Acosta
Eve and the Tree of Knowledge by ©Cristina Acosta
Conquistadora at the Center of the Universe by ©Cristina Acosta
Our Lady of the Winter Snows by ©Cristina Acosta



When Woman Became the Sea Hispanic Childrens Book illustrated by Latina artist Cristina Acosta

When Woman Became the Sea, Hispanic Latino Children’s Book

Hispanic or Latino children’s books actually written or illustrated by a Latino/a in the U.S. during the 1990s were rare birds. Though the Hispanic population of the United States was quickly becoming the dominant subculture, not a lot in the arts, design and decor fields reflected that fact. Fortunately, forward-thinking Anglos that were already positioned in the publishing world took notice and did their part. The owners and staff and writers at Beyond Words Publishing in the 1990s were those people.

During the time writer, Susan Strauss was putting together her new book based on a Costa Rican Creation story, she happened to be seated next to me at the brunch of a mutual friend. Our conversation turned to her story and by the time we were done with our meal we had a plan to present to her publisher, Beyond Words. Our plan was accepted and I joined the team as the Latina illustrator.

Though that doesn’t sound like a big deal now that time has passed, it was then. I was so excited. Not only did I get to make a contribution as an artist and mother (my daughter was five at the time,”When Woman Became the Sea,” was published), I got the personal satisfaction of being a published Latina. It was very gratifying. I don’t care for cultural appropriation. Despite the best of intentions when bringing Hispanic products to market, when all of the names attached to the products are Anglo or culturally divergent, it can come across as appropriation.

The book has long since sold out and you can only get copies on Amazon, I am still very proud of the project. The beautiful marriage between Susan Strauss’ elegant writing, the typesetting and my illustrations is holding up well.

Here’s a few of the reviews for “When Woman Became the Sea”: 

“A lovely creation myth from Costa Rica is retold in read-aloud rhythm and illustrated with gorgeous, tropical paintings.  Sound effects are indicated by the waving, explosive typeface that will inspire dramatic story hours.  The rich colors and vivid patterns of Acosta’s illustrations echo Latino pottery and design, making this an irresistible package.”

Kirkus Reviews, September 1998

“Acosta illustrates the tale with swirling, thick-lined tropical scenes in which form takes second place to vibrant, emphatic color.  The eye-catching visuals. . . and the author’s natural-sounding language. . . make the tale a promising candidate for reading aloud.”
Booklist, October 1998

“When Woman Became the Sea; A Costa Rican Creation Myth recounts an allegory of the intertwined origins of trees and water in the interplay between Thunder and Sea.”
Bookman’s Weekly, November 1998

“Strauss is a storyteller and her colloquial, rhythmic narrative just begs to be read or told aloud.  The vivid acrylic illustrations make the most of strong shapes, swirling brush strokes and clean blocks of color to create a primitive style emboldened by a sense of movement, perfect for a myth about making and doing.  The page layout is excellent, with spiraled, script like print balancing and enhancing the kinetic look of the artwork.”
School Library Journal, February 1999

When Woman Became the Sea Hispanic Childrens Book illustrated by Latina artist Cristina Acosta
When Woman Became the Sea Hispanic Childrens Book illustrated by Latina artist © Cristina Acosta

When Woman Became the Sea.  By Susan Strauss    Illustrated By Cristina Acosta

Published Fall 1998, Beyond Words Publishing, Inc. Hillsboro, Oregon    ISBN# 1-885223-85-4

Though out of print, used copies may be found on Amazon.
Original paintings (acrylic on paper) are available for sale and/or exhibits. Contact Cristina with your request.

Contemporary Hispanic art Guadalupe with Crown - The World is Her Heart

Guadalupe Contemporary Retablo

Contemporary retablo of the Guadalupe with Crown is an ex-voto. Titled, Guadalupe with Crown, the World is Her Heart, in this image the Guadalupe holds the earth within her heart. The spinning earth nestles into her body, a universe of spacious emptiness. Her image is created on sheets of sterling silver metal leaf layered with oil paints glazes and layered again with more silver. Her gaze is straight-forwards and engages you.

An ex-voto is a type of retablo that portrays a non-typical version of the revered religious figure. I painted this version of the Guadalupe to show her as a nurturing and loving universe gently enfolding the planet earth.

Title: Guadalupe with Crown, the World is Her Heart

Medium:  Oil; 22kt gold, sterling silver leaf on vintage Ponderosa Pine wood panel reclaimed from a 1904 wood mill and formed by an artisan woodworker into a single panel.

Size: 18″ x 24″

Year: Fall 2007, 2009


La Sirena Verde The Green Mermaid by ©Cristina Acosta

Contemporary Hispanic Art Retablo by Cristina Acosta – The Green Mermaid

In the Retablo tradition of the Ex-Voto, I painted this for my sister, Alisa Acosta to celebrate the blessing of her recovery from cancer. The image on a Ex-Voto  is a visual acknowledgment and expression of gratitude for  a blessing received. Sharing my sister’s journey to recovery with her I am in awe of her strength.

We grew up on the Southern California coast and when we were children, spent many days at the beach across the street from our Abuelita’s (grandmother’s) house. Our memories of the beach are a source of happiness to both of us. We’d play in the waves, boogie board, pop buds on long strings of kelp, or walk out onto the jetty with brown sacks of warm tortilla chips fresh from my Abuelita’s cast iron fry pan. On the beach, standing on the water’s edge and facing west, with the Los Angeles metropolis of millions of people at our backs, we would look into the wilderness of the ocean. This strong, iconic mermaid reflects both the divine feminine along with the beauties and powers of the ocean. The dominant color scheme is  my sister’s favorite color — green, the color of a clear, crisp ocean wave.

Title: La Sirena Verde / The Green Mermaid

Medium: Oil and Sterling Silver metal leaf with antique 24kt. gold glazed ceramic mosaic on artisan made Ponderosa Pine planks salvaged from a 1904 building in Bend, Oregon.

Size: 17″ x 24″

Year: January 2008

To commission a Ex-voto celebrating a blessing, contact me.

Contemporary Religious art Guadalupe with a Tear by ©Cristina Acosta

Guadalupe with a Tear Contemporary Latina Art Retablo

Embracing her child, the Guadalupe lovingly gazes at the child, Jesus. Here, La Guadalupe is the symbol of mother-love. Three playful birds flit within a field of copper leaf over tinted and textured wax incised with the shapes of roses. A 22 kt. gold leaf sphere glows above. Tile mosaic of antique 24kt. gold glazed poly chorme tiles is both a decorative surround and the pattern of her cloak. After painting the image, the seam between planks opened, creating a “tear” like line. Rather than filling the line, I saw that the tear symbolized the prescient moment when she intuited that her child would be destined for greatness and understood her role to nurture his beginning life with unconditional love.

Title of Artwork:  Guadalupe with a Tear


Oil; 22kt gold, sterling silver and copper metal leaf; wax; antique 24kt. Gold glazed tile mosaic; semi-precious stones on vintage Ponderosa Pine wood panel reclaimed from a 1904 wood mill and formed by an artisan wood worker into a single panel.

Size:  18” x 24”

Year:  2005/2006

Contemporary Spanish Market art Conquistadora at the Portal by ©Cristina Acosta

La Conquistadora at the Portal – Contemporary Retablo by ©Cristina Acosta

I painted this retablo of La Conquistadora at the Portal in the ex-voto tradition in gratitude for the blessing of fertility. The Madonna – Conquistadora / Guadalupe / The Corn Maiden – is at the center of life and death. On either side the skeletons, pillars on each end of the rainbow are guardians / ancestors / reminders of mortality’s part in the life cycle. Overhead a rainbow arcs to contain the brightness of her being. Flora switches from dark to light, from blood red to the dark of night and back again. A red stalk of corn, the color of blood, is the spine of her body. It springs from the crescent moon beneath her, the same moon cradels the landscape of the earth. An green stalk of corn stands at the side, as ever-present plant life.

Title: Center of Creation
Size: 42″ x 60″

Year: 2008

Medium: Oil, 22kt. gold, sterling silver and copper metal leaf with antique 24kt gold glazed ceramic mosaic on wood panel. Wood panel is artisan made from reclaimed Ponderosa Pine planks taken from the 1904 circa mill buildings that were razed for redevelopment.

Contemporary Hispanic art Conquistadora with Corn Corazon

La Conquistadora in Prayer. Ex-voto Retablo by Cristina Acosta

La Conquistadora, the country’s oldest Madonna is shown here with her hands in prayer posture cradling her heart of corn. A 22kt. gold leaf crown adorns her head. She watches over the high sun, moon and lands below. Floral patterns embellish the sky. Her body is a rock wall of gold glazed mosaic that stretches across the horizon and drops down a flower to the earth. Her blessings rain down upon us.

Title: Corn Corazon (Heart) Conquistadora

Size: 18″ x 24″

Medium: Oil; 22kt gold, sterling silver and copper metal leaf; antique ceramic mosaic tile with 24k gold glazes; on vintage wood planks of Ponderosa Pine wood panel reclaimed from a 1904 wood mill and formed by an artisan wood worker into a single panel.

Date: 2006


La Sirena Azul The Blue Mermaid by ©Cristina Acosta

Mermaid Altar Retablo by Contemporary Latina Artist, Cristina Acosta

The mermaid retablo image is strong and iconic. Her tail swoops above her, creating a sort of crown. The shape of her tail and body combine to create a shape reminiscent of plant life. A horizon line of sterling silver leaf goes through her eyes, reminiscent of sea foam. The mosaic embracing her is studded with sea shells amid 24kt. gold glazed ceramic tile pieces.

I spent my early childhood living by the sea. I used to see pictures of mermaids and think that they were mostly all wrong looking renditions of sexy sea nymphs waiting for a sailor to fall overboard and float into their domain. This mermaid is different. She represents the ocean as a life giving, beautiful place but with the feeling that the dark and foreboding side of her world is also present. I love the sea, yet I’m always a bit afraid of the dark, unknown waters around me. She is my homage to the beautiful changeable sea.

Title: La Sirena / The Mermaid

Size:  18” x 24”

Year: 2007 September

Medium:  Oil; sterling silver leaf; antique 24kt. Gold glazed tile mosaic; semi-precious stones on vintage Ponderosa Pine wood panel reclaimed from a 1904 wood mill and formed by an artisan wood worker into a single panel.