Our Lady of Guadalupe and American Democracy
Nichole M. Flores
How aesthetic religious experiences can create solidarity in marginalized communities
Latine Catholics have used Our Lady of Guadalupe as a symbol in democratic campaigns ranging from the Chicano movement and United Farm Workers’ movements to contemporary calls for just immigration reform. In diverse ways, these groups have used Guadalupe’s symbol and narrative to critique society’s basic structures—including law, policy, and institutions—while seeking to inspire broader participation and representation among marginalized peoples in US democracy.
Yet, from the outside, Guadalupe’s symbol is illegible within a liberal political framework that seeks to protect society’s basic structures from religious encroachment by relegating religious speech, practices, and symbols to the background.
The Aesthetics of Solidarity argues for the capacity of Our Lady of Guadalupe—and similar religious symbols—to make democratic claims. Author Nichole M. Flores exposes the limitations of political liberalism’s aesthetic responses to religious difference, turning instead to Latine theological aesthetics and Catholic social thought to build a framework for interpreting religious symbols in our contemporary pluralistic and participatory democratic life. By offering a lived theology of Chicanx Catholics in Denver, Colorado, and their use of Guadalupe in the pursuit of justice in response to their neighborhood’s gentrification, this book provides an important framework for a community of interpretation where members stand in solidarity to respond to justice claims made from diverse religious and cultural communities.
1. A Political Theology of Guadalupe and Juan Diego
2. John Rawls’s Liberal Imagination
3. Martha Nussbaum’s Liberal Aesthetics
4. Lifting Up the Lowly
5. The Aesthetic Dimension of Solidarity
About the Author
"Nichole M. Flores expertly weaves in storytelling and theology to examine the usage of Marian symbols, from the Chicano movement to immigration organizers today. The Aesthetics of Solidarity is a must-read for everyone looking to deepen their understanding of Latinx theology and proves why Flores is one of the most important theological voices in the Catholic Church today."—Olga Segura, author of Birth of a Movement: Black Lives Matter and the Catholic Church
"At a moment when society is fraying and politics is polarized Flores provides a rich, ethical conception of democratic solidarity and its centrality to a politics of the common good in a pluralistic context. Arguing against key liberal philosophers, Flores’s theologically and aesthetically sophisticated political theology of solidarity creatively draws on a set of resources rooted in Latine responses to oppression, including movements for social justice, political campaigns, theatre, popular religious celebrations of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and experiences of lo cotidiano. In doing so the book models the best of what teologia en conjunto means both in practice and in scholarship."—Luke Bretherton, Robert E. Cushman Professor of Moral & Political Theology, Duke University
"Cornel West points out that Christianity is ultimately a narrative about good triumphing over evil. John Milbank asserts that Christianity’s appeal lies in the inherent beauty of this salvific story. Nichole Flores, grounded in the rich heritage of Guadalupan devotion and Catholic social teaching, makes the bold claim that talk of truth and beauty cannot be separated from ethics and social justice. Her activist Latinx perspective shakes up and transforms the staid public discourse on the role of religious and cultural particularity in democratic processes."—Rubén Rosario Rodríguez, professor of systematic theology, Saint Louis University
"A keen-minded, scholarly analysis enhanced with a bibliography and an index, Our Lady of Guadalupe is highly recommended especially for college and university Religion/Spirituality collections."—Midwest Book Review
"The Aesthetics of Solidarity represents a major contribution to the ongoing development of U.S. Latinx theology. Flores has produced a first-rate scholarly monograph in which she carefully develops, and clearly articulates, the intellectual features of an aesthetics of solidarity—a rich notion that will, no doubt, influence theological conversation in the future, not only among Latinx scholars but in the broader theological community."—Journal of Hispanic/Latino Theology
"Flores’s study offers significant insights for understanding the importance of marginalized groups, their struggles for justice, and their religious expressions within the political landscape of a pluralistic society."—Commonweal
"The Aesthetics of Solidarity, by Nichole M. Flores, is an important work on US Latinx theological aesthetics, adding to a series of recent books seeking to bring out the political and activist dimensions of aesthetic practice.Flores tells the stories of several social movements, actions, and artistic productions touching Latinx communities, wiring them into a theory of democratic solidarity and action that takes the particular experiences of marginalized minority communities to heart. Along the way, Flores levels incisive critiques of liberal social-justice ethics, using a wide range of Latinx theological voices to expand the accounting of difference, particularity, and locality that liberal thought often leaves behind."—Journal of the American Academy of Religion
"Flores makes an important contribution here. As people become more saturated in visual imagery designed to shape imagination and catalyze emotion—about whose lives matter, about who can and cannot belong in coalitions of change, about threats to national identities—paying attention to the ways Latine communities continue to participate in the Guadalupan narrative as a resource for civic engagement can invite them into the galvanizing aesthetic dimension of solidarity."—Journal of Catholic Social Thought
Nichole M. Flores is an assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. She is the author of several scholarly articles and is a contributing writer for America magazine. She was the recipient of the 2015 Catherine Mowry LaCugna Award for the best academic essay in Catholic theology from the Catholic Theological Society of America.
184 pp., 6 x 9
184 pp., 6 x 9
Moral Traditions series
David Cloutier, Darlene Weaver, and Andrea Vicini, SJ