On Lupita Nyong'o / Coatlalopeuh, Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Morenita

We are all composite sketches of past and future entities. Each of us is a cumulative equation: representative of accumulated knowledge, traditions, and memories. We are also influenced by the space and time in which we emerge, a variable within our own equations. But what does this really mean? We know that we carry the DNA of past people, and will inform the DNA of future people, but the tangible links between us and them are sometimes lost in translation: literally. Of course these links don't have to be lost; not if we do a little "digging up of the past"—as Arthur Schomburg implored us to almost a hundred years ago. More importantly, humanity's past leaves an impression of sorts on our present existence, even without us realizing it.

With that said, the fascination with Lupita Nyong'o is an interesting phenomenon. America—and the world's—obsession with Nyong'o seems to be layered; she is an actress and filmmaker, an African with immediate roots on the continent, and a bridge between various aspects of our stratified lives. Still, one can't help but wonder what "it" is that Lupita Nyong'o possesses: that thing which attracts mainstream media in such a fervent, methodical way. Some think Nyong'o is being fetishized, while others think the attention she receives opens doors for complex conversation in communities of color. Either way, people from diverse ethnic backgrounds seem to be falling in love with Nyong'o without even giving it much thought. The adoration for Lupita is almost involuntary, and people seem to be drawn to her for some unknown reason. If the physical and cultural characteristics of Nyong'o were listed on paper, she would theoretically be disqualified from many opportunities in contemporary American society. The darkness of her skin, the coils of her hair, and her direct African lineage could potentially marginalize Nyong'o (or not?) under more normal circumstances. And yet, she seems to float towards the center of America's stage, defying most of the prejudices which have imprisoned so many of the rest of us. But how does she do it? Is it simply the timing? Is America throwing African-descended people a "peace offering" in light of perpetual injustices suffered at the hands of conveniently-Lupita-loving stakeholders? Many Africans in America are wary: unsure of what or who to trust—for captivity will do that to you. Is what Lupita represents—particularly in regard to her visibility in the mainstream-America fashion and beauty scenes—something that people of African descent can wield for their own collective gain? If so, how? If not, then what? In order to gain a clearer understanding, it is valuable to at least explore some of the aspects of history that may inadvertently contribute to the "Lupita Factor."

The Name: Lupita

Lupita Nyong'o was born in Mexico City, Mexico to Kenyan parents. She is Luo which is an East African cultural group with a presence in Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan (President Barack Obama's father—Onyango Barrack Hussein Obama—was also Luo). Regarding the name "Lupita" Nyong'o explains: "My parents gave me a Mexican name...In our culture we are named after the events of the day." In regard to the surname Nyong'o, she told Yahoo Movies: "We're not sure what it means, my father believes it's the staff that a shepherd carries ...We're the only Nyong'o family I know so if there's someone with that name they're probably related to me." According to Fu Kiau (1991), the process of naming is a critical component of traditional African culture: "Yes, the word that is your name is more than just a word. Your name is the real you. It is the moving power, your moving power towards success. It is a socially given power to you that no one can prevent. Your name is the most important word that you will ever know in your lifetime. As such, it is one of the most important keys to life. It has a radiating power in you and around you. There is no day in your life when your name will not ring in your ears and mind. When it is called, it produces waves and radiations in and around you because it represents the content of your potential knowledge of kinetic power. There is magnetization between you and your name when it is spoken...Because of its role and influence on the life of one who carries the name, it is important that one knows the exact meaning of the name and the circumstances under which is what was given" (Fu Kiau, pp 15-16). Lupita's "Meixcan name" seems to have even more significance than what appears on the surface. Lupita, Lupe and Pita are shortened, familiar versions of the name Guadalupe. Although Guadalupe is perpetuated as a Spanish word, researchers say that Gudalupe comes from the Aztec Nahuatl word Coatlalopeuh (pronounced "quatlasupe") meaning "the one who crushes the serpent," and is a result of translation from Nahuatl into Spanish.

Coatlalopeuh: From Coalicue to Tonantzin

According to Gebhardt (2005), the name Coatlalopeuh (sometimes spelled "Coatxalopeuh") comes from the Nahuatl word coatl which means "serpent," as in Coalicue—"she who wears a serpent skirt"— who was a creator and fertility goddess among pre-Columbian Mesoamerican nations (p. 14). Similarly, Cartwright (2013) explains: "Coatlicue (pronounced Co-at-li-cu-e) or 'Serpent Skirt' was a major deity in the Aztec pantheon and regarded as the earth-mother goddess. Represented as an old woman, she symbolised the antiquity of earth worship and she presents one of the most fearsome figures in Aztec art. Coatlicue was also the patron of childbirth, was associated with warfare, governance and agriculture, and considered the female aspect of the primordial god Ometeotl...In Aztec mythology Coatlicue was actually a priestess whose job was to maintain the shrine on the top of the legendary sacred mountain Coatepec ('Snake Mountain', also spelt Coatepetl). One day, as she was sweeping, a ball of feathers descended from the heavens and when she tucked it into her belt it miraculously impregnated her. The resulting child was none other than the powerful Aztec god of war Huitzilopochtli." Gomez-Cano (2010) explains that Coatlicue is one of many "original female cosmic, agricultural, and warrior divinities" which "suffered changes in their images and roles during the rise and consolidation of the Teotihuacan, Toltec, Chichimec and Mexica empires" (p. 244). Gomez-Cano (2010) describes the goddess cosmology further: "The most important Mexica creator goddess was Omecihuatl, also referred to as Tonantzin, Chalchiuhtlicue, Itzpapalotl...Earth deities were Coatlicue, Cihuacoatl, Xochiquetzal, and Mayahuel" (p. 22). In some accounts, Coatlicue is revered as a "virgin goddess," but scholars of Aztec history explain that in the context of ancient Mesoamerican societies, Coatlicue possessed a variety of attributes. Even still, Coatlicue is interchangeable with Tonantzin and both words are used to refer to ancient goddess energy. Gomez-Cano (2010) writes the following: "Tonantzin is the name given to all the ancient Mesoamerican cosmic/earth goddesses of agricultural societies as a title representing the revered ancestor" (p. 173). According to Castro (2000): "Tonantin was the Nahuatl name given to several mountains, so Tonan was the Earth. Tonantzin of Tepeyac was known as Teteo Innan, Mother of the Gods, the patroness of midwives and healers. The Aztecs traveled to visit her shrine to pray for cures. The shrine where she was venerated was Tepeyac, the hill where La Virgen de Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego in 1531. The acceptance of La Virgen de Guadalupe was not difficult for the Aztecs because to them she was Tonantzin dressed in Spanish clothing. After the temple was built for Tonantzin at Tepeyac, the Aztec people continued to visit the shrine seeking cures from Tonantzin. Even though the miracles and cures were attributed to La Virgen de Guadalupe the Indians called her Tonantzin. She is also a beloved icon of Chicanos, and her name and image are frequently invoked in poetry and art" (p. 230). Similarly, Sanchez (2002) writes that Coatlalopeuh "is an aspect of earlier earth goddesses, mainly Coatlicue and Tonantzin (p. 149). Apparently, Coatlalopeuh revealed herself to Juan Diego, who then shared his spiritual experience with the occupying Spaniards who then referred to her as Guadalupe. Sanchez (2002) calls this the "appropriation of native beliefs by institutional religion," which would have lasting affects (p. 149). With this said, Coatlalopeuh was the 16th Century version of Coatlicue—interchangeable with Tonantzin—a pre-Colombian, indigenous Aztec goddess worshiped as far back as 2500 B.C.E. Coatlicue was herself a reflection of consolidated Mesoamerican goddess energies, known by a few different names over time.

Cuauhtlatoatzin, Saint Juan Diego: Preserving the goddess Coatlalopeuh

By the time Cuauhtlatoatzin (St. Juan Diego) reports meeting Coatlalopeuh, the Aztec empire was experiencing decline. Cuauhtlatoatzin (St. Juan Diego) reported his first Coatlalopeuh sighting on December 12, 1531 at Tepeyac Hill—already a known Aztec pilgrimage site. He was able to redefine the hill's spiritual significance and his visions created the opportunity for the sacred site to remain preserved. To this day, it is still an extremely important religious site in Mexico. According to the Vatican: "Little is known about the life of Juan Diego before his conversion, but tradition and archaeological and iconographical sources, along with the most important and oldest indigenous document on the event of Guadalupe, El Nican Mopohua (written in Náhuatl with Latin characters, 1556, by the Indigenous writer Antonio Valeriano, give some information on the life of the saint and the apparitions. Juan Diego was born in 1474 with the name Cuauhtlatoatzin ("the talking eagle") in Cuautlitlán, today part of Mexico City, Mexico. He was a gifted member of the Chichimeca people, one of the more culturally advanced groups living in the Anáhuac Valley. When he was 50 years old he was baptized by a Franciscan priest, Fray Peter da Gand, one of the first Franciscan missionaries. On 9 December 1531, when Juan Diego was on his way to morning Mass, the Blessed Mother appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill, the outskirts of what is now Mexico City. She asked him to go to the Bishop and to request in her name that a shrine be built at Tepeyac, where she promised to pour out her grace upon those who invoked her. The Bishop, who did not believe Juan Diego, asked for a sign to prove that the apparition was true. On 12 December, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac. Here, the Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick the flowers that he would find in bloom. He obeyed, and although it was winter time, he found roses flowering. He gathered the flowers and took them to Our Lady who carefully placed them in his mantle and told him to take them to the Bishop as "proof". When he opened his mantle, the flowers fell on the ground and there remained impressed, in place of the flowers, an image of the Blessed Mother, the apparition at Tepeyac...He died in 1548 and was buried in the first chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. He was beatified on 6 May 1990 by Pope John Paul II in the Basilica of Santa Maria de Guadalupe, Mexico City. The miraculous image, which is preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, shows a woman with native features and dress. She is supported by an angel whose wings are reminiscent of one of the major gods of the traditional religion of that area. The moon is beneath her feet and her blue mantle is covered with gold stars. The black girdle about her waist signifies that she is pregnant. Thus, the image graphically depicts the fact that Christ is to be "born" again among the peoples of the New World, and is a message as relevant to the "New World" today as it was during the lifetime of Juan Diego."

Cuauhtlatoatzin's account was first written by Manuel Sanchez in 1648. It was entitled: Imagen de la Virgen Maria, Madre de Dios de Guadalupe, Milagrosamente aparecida en la Ciudad de México (Image of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God of Guadalupe, who miraculously appeared in the City of Mexico) and written in Spanish. Nican Mopohua was written by by Antonio Valeriano (1531-1605). Even though subsequent accounts of Nican Mopohua resurfaced (with authors like Luis Laso de la Vega claiming to have wrote the document), the Vatican attributes authorship to Valeriano: who was taken from his family as a child and educated in a Franciscan school by missionary friars. Nican Mopohua explains that Cuauhtlatoatzin (St. Juan Diego) had four apparitions or visions of Coatlalopeuh. He then goes to the Bishop, Fray Juan Zumárraga on three separate occasions describing what he saw during each experience. Zumárraga doesn't seem to care much at first but he finally takes Cuauhtlatoatnin (St. Juan Diego) more seriously and the matter permanently changes the course of Catholicism: in America and around the world. The Codex Escalada exists as a pictorial manuscript describing Cuauhtlatoatzin's vision. His narrative reflects an interactive experience between himself and Coatlalopeuh; she requires him to secure the preservation of this Aztecian holy site and he ultimately delivers.

Coatlalopeuh as Guadalupe: La Morenita del Tepeyac

According to Novoa (2004), Our Lady of Guadalupe (formerly Coatlalopeuh) is oftentimes referred to as the "brown Madonna." Novoa (2004) explains further: "I call Our Lady of Guadalupe la morenita: morena means dark skinned and the "ita" is a form of endearment. In addition to showing herself as a dark skinned woman, her clothing incorporated several visual Aztec symbols, and she spoke to Juan Diego in Nahuatl, his native language. She appeared on Tepeyac Hill, a place that had been considered the holy ground of the goddess Tonantzin" (p. 267). According to Collins (1992): "On any weekend, 100,000 persons may pass the gauntlet of vendors at the main gate and pour into the Shrine of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. Ten times that number congregate on 12 December to celebrate 'the Lady's' anniversary. In all, 12 million to 20 million believers visit each year, firm in their faith that the Virgin Mary appeared here to a humble Mexican peasant five centuries ago. They come to be blessed by the nation's patron saint, the 'Little Brown Mother-of-God' whose image is preserved in a miraculous portrait, proof to these pilgrims of the Virgin's visitation. By the thousands and millions they come to gaze upon the Mother of Jesus, the dark Madonna wrought in their own likeness" (p. 287). For the Indigenous communities of Mexico, La Morenita del Tepeyac represents the syncretization of pre-Colombian spirituality with Catholicism. The irony of course is that Spanish conquistadores and their missionary allies also paid homage and reverence to this Indigenous, brown-skinned goddess. A wealth of scholarship exists already: exploring not only the appropriation of world cultures into the dominant cultural framework of the West, but also how and why global world cultures syncretized their own Indigenous practices with those of their colonizers as an act of resistance.

They Came Before Columbus

How Coatlalopeuh functions as the "Brown Madonna" of pre and post-Colombian Mexico is a narrative with many layers. According to Van Sertima (1976) Mexico experienced several waves of pre-Colombian African influence: the East African (Egyptian) presence in the Olmec heartland (800-700 B.C.E.) and the Mandingo contact period (1310-1311) (p. 87). Giant stone Olmec heads were unearthed in 1939 by a team of National Geographic and Smithsonian Institute scientists and the features of these life-like depictions were clearly inspired by African faces (Van Sertima, 1976, p. 144). Van Sertima (1976) notes that Dr. Matthew Stirling, who lead the team of archaeologists, described the Olmec head he found as follows:
"'Cleared of the surrounding earth, it presented an awe-inspiring spectacle. Despite its great size the workmanship is delicate and sure, and proportions perfect. Unique in character among aboriginal American sculptures, it is remarkable for its realistic treatment. The features are bold and amazingly Negroid in character" (p. 145).

Scientists agree that the Olmec heads—which were found in Tres Zapotes, San Lorenzo and La Venta—date back to at least 800 B.C.E. (Van Sertima, 1976, p. 147). Since the Conquistadores thoroughly documented their earliest travels to the Western Hemisphere, we know that they viewed the Americas as new and uncharted territory. However, what is also clear is that the interactions between Africans from the continent and Indigenous communities in the Americas resulted in a the syncretization of these cultures long before the Conquistadores arrived. This "confluence of cultures" is evident in the shared linguistic and spiritual aspects of the Bambara (the leading tribe of the Mandingo) and the Otomi and Lancandon of Mexico (Van Sertima, 1976, p. 96). One such example is the development of the Nahuatl (Aztec) language, the lingua franca of Mexico:

"D.G. Brinton, in his book Nagualism, discusses the nature and meaning of naual and the many derivatives of the verbal root na, indicating that these words and the body of beliefs attached to them—nagualism—were brought into Mexico by foreign medicine men. 'Nahual means knowledge' wrote Brinton, 'especially mystical knowledge, the knowledge of the hidden and secret things of nature...It is significant that neither the radical na or any of its derivatives are found in the Huasteca dialect of the Mayan tongue, which was spoken about Tampico, far removed from other members of that stock. The inference is that in the southern dialects it was a borrowed stem. Nor in the Nahuatl language—although its very name is borrowed from it—does the radical na appear in its simplicity and true significance. To the Nahuas, also, it has been a loan.'...Brinton, in his study of nagualism, has provided us with a series of na words in Maya and Maya dialects (like the Quiche dialect of the Yucatan), the Zapotec language and the Nahuatl language to show that some foreign group passing through these linguistically diverse but geographically close peoples introduced this series of words...One example from each language group should be enough to illustrate this point. Na-at ("intelligence," in Maya), na-ual ("to prophesy," in Quiche), na-a ("medicine man," in Zapotec) and na-ual-li ("magician" in Nahuatl). The same root na is the base of a series of words with the same meanings in Mande languages. One part of the series springs from the Arabic na-ba ("to prohesy"), na-bi ("prophet"), na-bah ("intelligent"), and appears in the West African Peul and Dyula languages as na-biu, in Soso as a-na-bi, and in Wolof as na-ni-na. Ideas behind these Arabic naba/nabi words, however, have fused and become confused with ideas of the native nama cult, so that we get na-ba in the Habbes-Gara language for "masked men," who are known as nama in Malinke. In Malinke also we get nama-koro, which literally means "hyena wise men," which is an exact translation of the Nahuatl Coyotli-naual, meaning "coyote wise men," where the American coyote (werewolf of the prairies) is substituted for the African hyena (werewolf of the savannahs)" (Van Sertima, 1976, p. 98-99).

This is all to say that the African presence in pre-Colombian cultures of the Western Hemisphere is evident and continues to resurface as research progresses. As the transAtlantic slave trade began to intensify, captive Africans were brought to Mexico in large numbers. According to Green, Derr and Knight (2000): "It has been estimated that, in Mexico during the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the slave population was both greater than that in any other country in the Americas and larger than the European population in Mexico (Beltran 1944; Muhammad 1995). Denial of African origin improved social status and thereby increased opportunities and privileges (Beltran 1945, 1970; Muhammad 1995). The denial and dilution of African ancestry during the past 500 years has deprived the contemporary Mexican peoples of knowledge of a significant portion of their ethnic heritage" (p. 997). Close to half a million Africans were brought to Mexico between the 16th and 18th centuries (Green, Derr and Knight; 2000). Many Africans were also brought illegally to the country, leaving room for the possibility of even higher numbers.

As early as 1537, Africans were organizing large-scale uprisings in Mexico City (Davidson, 1996, p. 90). According to Davidson (1996), restrictions limiting the movement and activities of Africans began to increase as the colonial governors became more fearful of revolution. Even still, by the 1560s captive Africans were liberating themselves from Guadalajara to Zapotecas: collaborating with Indigenous groups—such as the Chichimecs—in the process (Davidson, 1996, p. 91). Davidson (1996) explains that the revolutionary Maroon leader Yanga (also called Naga or Nyanga) established a palenque in Veracruz in the first decade of the 1600s, where formerly-enslaved Africans sought refuge: "Yanga's Maroon movement is a notable incident in the history of Negros of Mexico—the only known example of a fully successful attempt to by slaves to secure their freedom en masse by revolt and negotiation and to have it sanctioned and guaranteed in law. This experience demonstrates that, under capable leadership, slaves could maintain an active guerrilla campaign, negotiate a truce, and win recognition of their freedom" (p. 97). Yanga was kidnapped from Africa and was most likely of Akan origin. He himself escaped captivity and spent 30 years free in the mountains of Veracruz before he united with other Africans escaping captivity, who named him as their leader, and called themselves Yanguicos (Davidson, 1996, p. 94).

Meanwhile, Indigenous and African populations continued to unite at times, over time. Shared circumstances—namely colonial apartheid—brought these two groups together in marriages, maroon communities, and revolutionary efforts. The term mestizaje has been used to refer to Mexicans with visibly African features however Cuevas (2004) argues that this is the result of "racist criollo thought" which sought to control "the discourse on nation during the cultural phase of the revolution" (p. xiv). Ironically, 80% of the Mestizo castas or mezclas—classifications identifying racial mixture—were associated with African ancestry (Cuevas, p. 5). With this said, Mexicans of African descent continued to be at the helm of liberatory ideals in Mexico, with José Morelos y Pavyn, Miguel Hidalgo, and Vicente Guerrero initiating the Mexican Revolution in the early 1800s. Vincent (1994) explains that there is, in fact, no concept of Mexican Revolution without examining its African leadership: "It is a ironic that Afro-Mexican involvement in the war for independence has not been explored in depth previously, because the framework of the story has been well sketched, as in the 1930 article by historian Joel A. Rogers, “The Negro Who Freed Mexico,” a biographical piece on Vicente Guerrero, who rose from humble origins and labor as a mule-train driver to become a key general in Mexico’s 1810-1821 war for independence and in 1829 his country’s second President. He was 'both the George Washington and the Lincoln' of Mexico, declared Rogers, explaining that Guerrero merited the Washingtonian 'father of his country' title for maintaining the fight after the Spanish defeated the movement’s first leaders. Once in the presidency, he became his country’s great emancipator, too. Guerrero issued the decree that ended slavery in Mexico, the abolition of which was a goal of the independence movement from its start. Guerrero was unable to enforce the decree in Texas, however" (Vincent, 1994, p. 258).

Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe

A chapel was built on Tepeyac Hill to commemorate the apparitions of Coatlalopeuh (Our Lady of Guadalupe) in 1667. The first Basilica was later constructed from red volcanic rock and sandstone in 1709 (Queen of the Americas Guild, 2007). The Image of the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe was crowned by Pope Leo the XIII in 1895, and in 1945, Pope Pius the XII "proclaimed her patroness of all the Americas" (Queen of the Americas Guild, 2007). Ironically, Mexico City's chapter of the Knights of Columbus established a "Guadalupe Council" in 1905 and has, since then hosted variety of Guadalupe-centered events including but not limited to: 1) The first Immaculate Conception Prayer Program, featuring Our Lady of Guadalupe as the honoree (1979) 2) Supreme Knight Carl Anderson's dedication of his administration to Our Lady of Guadalupe at her Basilica in Mexico City (2000) 3) the International Marian Congress on Our Lady of Guadalupe (2009) 4) the Guadalupe Celebration featuring a 20-page Marian Prayer Program (2012).In 1999, Pope John Paul II, in his homily given during the Solemn Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, his third visit to the sanctuary, declared the date of December the 12th as a Liturgical Holy Day for the whole continent. In November 2013, Pope Francis gave a golden rose to Our Lady of Guadalupe as "a sign of love, gratitude and enthusiasm" (Catholic News Agency, 2013). Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton even left white flowers "on behalf of the American people" for Our Lady of Guadalupe while visiting Mexico in 2009 (Catholic News Agency, 2009). She also admitted that this was her second time at the shrine: she visited before, in 1979. Nowadays, the Nacional Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe live streams Misas and has an online inventory of its Biblioteca Teológica. The Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine in Des Plaines, Illinois is the only replica outside of Mexico City. Des Plaines is particularly significant because the Des Plaines River was the "principal water route westward from Lake Michigan toward the Mississippi" and an important mode of transportation for the Potawatomi, Ottawa, and Chippewa. The irony is clear: Americans believe in the Brown Madonna and spend a lot of time working with and through the energy that manifests from the idea of her, and the way she functions as a religious icon. While this belief doesn't translate in the least bit to real liberation for the oppressed people of color living in the Americas, it does affirm the immense power of African and Indigenous goddesses (and gods). While some people of color may be reluctant to acknowledge their ancestral traditions and belief systems, their oppressors seem to be very comfortable with displaying public affection and reverence for these same spiritual entities.


The "Lupita Factor" seems to be drenched in both tangible and abstract realities. Essentially, Nyong'o is at the center of several terrestrial and cosmic coincidences. Perhaps some of Lupita's appeal is, in fact, an amalgamation of: 1) Coatlalopeuh (Our Lady of Guadalupe) for who she is named, who exists as a representative of ancient and contemporary Indigenous communities of Central America 2) the ancient and influential presence of African people in pre-Colombian America (concurrent with Coatlalopeuh's appearance) 3) the appropriation of Indigenous and African spiritual entities into widespread European religious traditions: spiritual traditions which are actively practiced by the enslavers of African and Indigenous peoples as well as their ideological descendants (an old practice, but still worth mentioning) 4) the island named Lupita in Lake Tanganyika (one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world), situated between Kenya and the Congo.

It is clear that everything about everyone of us is a story. Our names, our origins, and most importantly the people who came before us (through DNA or proximity) have an immeasurable affect on who we are now. Lupita Nyong'o just so happens to be carrying around a name which invokes a spiritual entity going back hundreds of years: Guadalupe. Our Lady of Guadalupe is, in turn, informed by another spiritual entity which goes back several thousand years: Coatlalopeuh. With this kind of information, people of African descent can at least decide how they want to process the "Lupita Factor." A historical examination of even the name itself, associated with a goddess who was highly revered in more than one time-period, opens the door for a more layered conversation. For some this may all seem to be coincidental with no underlying meaning whatsoever. Still, the reverence for the Black or Brown Madonna is not a new phenomenon: the African woman as representative of the goddess is the way of things. While many are rightfully cautious about the obsession with Lupita, there is perhaps an alternate way of viewing these events. Could this be a "balancing of the scales," (Ma'at intended), where the face of an African woman is center to the world's stage long enough for her own enemies to bow down: whether they intended to or not? Perhaps Lupita's influence has more to do with the spiritual entities for which she is named, and the much-needed cultural realignment that has to happen for communities of color who have been adversely affected by neocolonialism. The results of captivity and oppression are still paramount and many people of color (Indigenous and African) are faced with immeasurable odds against their very beingness. The marketing is intense, and one would have to be solid as a rock to completely ignore the message of white supremacy, particularly in regard to beauty and self-awareness. It is not so much because of her role in 12 Years a Slave, but because she has the media in her clutches that Lupita's factor becomes so intriguing. Whether she intended to or not, she exists as a visual representation of people of African descent, and her presence has permeated into the psyches of even the most self-loathing of the oppressed.

The goddess Coatlalopeuh (Our Lady of Guadalupe)—herself often referred to as "she who crushes the serpent"—seems to be invoked, inadvertently. Take actor  Jeffrey Wright's ode to Lupita, for instance: "So apparently Lupita Nyong'o translates loosely from Luo into 'Crush them! Crush them all with darkness and beauty!'" It does, apparently.

Brief history of Our Lady of Guadalupe (2007). Retrieved from http://www.queenoftheamericasguild.org/BriefHistoryNew.html

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Castro, R. (2000). Chicano folklore: A guide to the folktales, traditions, rituals and religious practices of Mexican Americans. New York: Oxford University Press.

Davidson, D.M. (1996). "Negro slave control and resistance in colonial Mexico, 1519-1650. In R.Price (Ed.), Maroon Societies: Rebel Slave Communities in the Americas (pp. 82-104). Baltimore, Maryland: JHU Press.

Gómez-Cano, G. (2010). The return to Coatlicue: Goddesses and warladies in Mexican folklore. Bloomington, IN: Xlibris.

Hernández Cueva, M.P. (2004). African Mexicans and the discourse on modern nation. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America.

Hillary Clinton leaves flowers for Our Lady of Guadalupe, asks ‘Who painted it?.’ (2009, March 27). Retrieved from http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/hillary_clinton_leaves_flowers_for_our_lady_of_guadalupe_asks_who_painted_it/

Noriega Sánchez, M.R. (2002). Challenging realities: Magic realism in contemporary American women's fiction. Universitat de Valencia.

Novoa, A. M. (2004 - 2005). Lessons from La Morenita del Tepeyac. Journal of Law and Religion 20 (1), pp. 267-294.

Pope Francis sends golden rose to Our Lady of Guadalupe(2013, November 22).. Retrieved from http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-sends-golden-rose-to-our-lady-of-guadalupe/

Van Sertima, I. (1976). They came before Colombus: The African presence in ancient America. Random House: New York.

Vincent, T. (1994). The Blacks who freed Mexico. Journal of Negro History, 79 (3), 257.

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