(RNS – Whitney Bauck) — Lil Nas X, Bad Bunny and Princess Nokia all work their spirituality into their music, but you’re not likely to think of them as virginal. They are nonetheless helping to spread a craze for Mary, mother of Jesus, wearing designer Brenda Equihua’s splashy coats made from San Marcos: blankets found in many Latinx homes that commonly feature the Virgin of Guadalupe.
For Equihua, Mary’s appeal is partly sentimental. Of Mexican American heritage, Equihua identifies the Virgin of Guadalupe with home. But there’s something deeper than simple nostalgia going on in her designs. “Wearing Mary in a fashion piece is unexpected,” she explained. “I think what’s cool is taking something out of context.”
Religious figures are often (if scandalously) appropriated outside sacred settings, but the decontextualization of Mother Mary has been in hyperdrive of late. Long a fixture on devotional medals worn by Catholics, Mary is so central to Catholic spirituality that Pope Francis earlier this year had to debunk the notion that Jesus’ mother would be designated “co-redemptrix”: “Mary Saves” tees are not coming to the St. Peter’s gift shop.
But if Catholics are content with her place as “a Mother, not as a goddess,” as the pope put it, Mary has become an icon to a younger generation of all faiths and no faith that has put social justice at the center of its hopes for a better world.
She’s treated as a feminist beacon, her likeness appearing alongside that of Frida Kahlo, Joan of Arc and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Mary lends cred to high-end guitar pedals created by female gear makers and pops up with increasing frequency on Etsy. Her story is being retold in provocative contemporary art and the theses of up-and-coming scholars.
But for all her trendiness, what makes Mary an appealing figure today is what has made her popular for 2,000 years: For all her connections to divine power, she has a lot in common with people who often get overlooked…