The Virgin Mary’s Body: Immaculate Rejection



Kay Turner (New York University)

Origin legends associated with Roman Catholic Marian cults often concern the bodily needs and report the miraculous personified actions of “representational” statues of the Virgin. Whether told officially or unofficially, such stories interrogate the thin doctrinal line between body and spirit. They may also provoke debate concerning female embodiment and women’s agency. A case in point is the Church-ratified 1623 legend of the now widely venerated Mexican icon, La Virgen de San Juan, as it was reimagined and contested in a 1987 recounting by Texas-Mexican partera (midwife), Margarita “Maggie” Guerrero. Not only positioning the Virgin as an autonomous actor and providing a unique asynchronous portal into gender and clerical tensions in colonial Mexico, Sra. Guerrero’s version also reads as an autobiographical allegory—and a feminist adumbration—of women’s unheeded healing powers.

Part of Don Yoder Memorial Lecture in Religious Folklife, Friday, October 22, 7:00 pm–8:15 pm