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Amalia Mesa-Bains’s essay proposes a historical lineage of heart imagery and the concept of “lo del corazón” [that which comes from the heart] that begins in the Mexico’s Aztec ritual of human sacrifice and culminates in public and popular art forms associated with the United States Chicano Movement of the mid-1960s. Using examples of religious art and popular art forms, it analyzes the transformation of indigenous heart symbols and myths as a result of Spanish colonization and their later association with patriotism and stoicism during the Mexican revolutionary period. It argues that “lo del corazon” imagery in Chicano art and popular culture of the 1960s represented Chicano barrio reality as a badge of courage and commitment. It also states that the Chicano art movement was a means of creating a collective consciousness, comparing the social function served by Chicano art to a continuation of the Aztec concept of ixtli in yollotl [the unification of mind and heart.]
Amalia Mesa-Bains is an artist and cultural critic, who wrote extensively on Chicano/Latino art. This essay was included in the catalogue for the group exhibition, Lo Del Corazon: Heartbeat of a Culture, at the Mexican Museum in San Francisco, California, in 1986. The exhibition, which traveled nationally, and the catalogue were the first to provide a comprehensive artistic and scholarly context for the hybrid evolution of heart imagery in Chicano art. Mesa-Bains’s essay is a companion piece to Tomás Ybarra-Frausto’s text, “Lo Del Corazón,” commissioned for the same catalogue (doc. no. 795669).