Collection 1970s–Present

Guadalupe Maravilla. Circle Serpent (Serpiente Circular). 2019 294

Maguey leaves, cotton, glue mixture, jute, and aluminum conch shell, Dimensions variable. Fund for the Twenty-First Century

Guadalupe Maravilla: My childhood trauma of crossing the border being undocumented is directly connected to my cancer. If trauma goes untreated, it can manifest into an illness. It could be depression. It could be so many different things.

The serpent is highly important for healing for me. It's the symbol of medicine. It's all over the hospitals and ambulances. But also in Mayan mythology, the serpent is a guardian, a healer. The serpent is one of my protectors.

Circle Serpent is made out of maguey leaves. It comes from my memory of being eight years old when I was crossing the border. I was going through Oaxaca at the time, and I saw fields of maguey, just endless fields of magueys. It felt like it was an alien planet and so that’s made it into the work.

Tripa Chuca is a drawing game from El Salvador in which you connect pairs of numbers. Generally it's played on a piece of paper, but I put them in walls and on the floors of my exhibitions. A direct translation, it means “rotting tripe.” And it's almost like this kind of organic labyrinth. It looks like a drawing of rotting guts on the wall.

The Tripa Chuca game is really important for me because I used to play with people that I met during my original journey from El Salvador through Mexico by land, it was a two and a half month journey. And I would play this game with children, people that were taking care of me, with coyotes who were crossing me, and it was a way to distract myself. It was a way to talk about where I come from with other people.

And now at the museums, I actually make sure that I'm playing with someone that has similar journey, someone who's undocumented, another cancer survivor, and it becomes a fingerprint between two people. So in a way, it almost feels like I'm blessing the space by bringing that other person to create this mapping.