Castilian Roses exhibit exemplifies cultural heritage

“Virgen de Guadalupe”, a glass mosaic piece by artist Celina Robledo, is seen at the San Benito Cultural Heritage Museum. (Photo by David Lopez)


The San Benito Cultural Heritage Museum opened an exhibit in December of 2019 unlike its predecessors.

Running until January 24, 2020, Castilian Roses in December is a community-curated exhibition exploring the iconography of La Virgen de Guadalupe.

“The purpose of the exhibit was to promote the culture as well as a historical phenomenon that greatly impacts this region dating back centuries,” said San Benito Cultural Arts Director Luis Contreras.

Contreras first worked on this exhibit as a guest curator in Brownsville in 2011, but in 2014 he took it to Mission and named it Castilian Roses in December.

“It’s always been a community curated exhibit because that’s the whole tie to the region,” he said. “There’s so much local talent that has been inspired by this phenomenon that we all grew up knowing,” Contreras said.

The exhibit features paintings, sculptures, drawings, and poems of local artists from across the Rio Grande Valley as well as from artists extending to Kingsville and San Antonio. One work even arrived from Portland, Oregon.

Brian Wedgworth and his wife Aleida Garcia Wedgworth, who operate an art studio in downtown Harlingen, submitted individual works that explore the themes of femininity and motherhood.

In his first year of college, Wedgworth built a 50-foot model of la Virgen de Guadalupe, now located in Windsor, Ohio. For the Roses exhibit, he submitted sculptures that do not contain the face of Mary but resemble her image, an easily recognizable figure in Latin American culture.

Like Wedgworth’s work, not all of the pieces are centered on the image of la Virgen.

Brownsville artist Cande Aguilar also submitted pieces in his signature Barrio Pop style. His pieces do not portray a grandeur worshiping of the Virgin but rather of her devotees, such as a señora and her casa, representative of the kind of people who worship la Guadalupana.

Contreras had someone mention to him that not every art piece in the exhibit was of la Virgen de Guadalupe, but he welcomes the dialogue.

“My response is that la Virgen is this idea and energy that inspires, whether we believe in her or not,” he said.
“I always go through selecting work that will represent her respectively, whether it be through images, words, abstract representations, or a non-representational piece.But it’s all about how the work depicts that icon.”

Editor’s note: This article has been edited for length. To read the full story, click here or make sure to grab a copy of the Dec. 27, 2019-Jan. 2, 2019 issue of the NEWS.

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