Designed by Susan Yamagata, painted by Michael Schnorr, Susan Yamagata.
……..Coatlicue, the Aztec Goddess of the Earth, is presented in Chicano Park, located within greater Aztlan, the homeland of the Aztecs. She is the mother of Huitzilopochtli, a tribal god that evolved into a god of war, the apex of the Aztec pantheon. He was born of an immaculate conception, and emerged at birth fully grown, dressed in warrior attire to defend the life of his mother. Michael Schnorr and Susan Yamagata chose to portray Coatlicue (Fig. 55) with her arms extended, supporting the sun and the earth in her hands. She is giving birth to Tlaloc, a water god, emerging upside down between her legs. The pairing of Tlaloc with Coatlicue may refer to the origin of his name from the word tlalli, meaning earth, suggesting an early aspect as an earth deity.
……..Coatlicue translates to “She of the Serpent Skirt.” As portrayed by Schnorr and Yamagata, the serpents of Coatlicue’s skirt are writhing within the lower panel (Fig. 56). Whereas her body is composed of relatively large areas of pure color, excluding her detailed arms and head, the serpents are finely detailed with small brush strokes outlined in black, to produce a vibrating effect
…….. Two months after its completion, cultural terrorists vandalized the mural by throwing glass bottles filled with white paint and broken bits of glass from the Coronado Bay Bridge. Schnorr had been informed of the damage while teaching at Southwestern College, and met Salvador Torres at the park to discuss repairs. Torres asked Schnorr if there were some way in which the vandalized areas could be incorporated into the mural instead of removing them completely. A team of workers from the Balboa Art Conservation Center restored Coatlicue’s lower body and the panel of serpents, leaving three damaged areas for Schnorr to incorporate into the design of Coatlicue’s body. Her right wrist and left shoulder were transformed into the heads of threatening dragons (Figs. 57-58), with the original white paint drips painted blue and red. Emerging from behind her right leg is the imaginative head of Kilo, a large German Shepherd owned by a local merchant, borrowed by Schnorr during his nights painting in the park..
…….. The monumental Aztec sculpture of Coatlicue is located in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City (Fig. 59). The statue is of cruciform shape, eight feet tall, and dates to between 1487 and 1520. It was discovered August 13, 1790, in Mexico City. Juan Vicente de Guemas Pacheco y Padilla, the Spanish viceroy, had ordered a resurfacing of the Zocalo, a large open plaza in front of the Cathedral of Mexico City. Coatlicue was unearthed during excavations and described in print by Antonio de Leon y Gama, the first Mexican archaeologist.
……..Coatlicue was first placed at the entrance to the viceregal palace, and later moved to the Real y Pontificia Universidad. Professors at the university were uneasy about the presence of the pre-Columbian goddess, believing the sculpture to be aesthetically inferior to copies of Greek and Roman classic sculpture, gifts to the university by Charles III. The professors were also concerned that the statue would ignite the embers of Aztec religion among the native Mexicans attending the university, and become a national symbol of the movement of independence from Spain. To avoid the possibility of such political problems, Coatlicue was re-buried.
……..After traveling throughout South America and the Caribbean, the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt traveled to Mexico City in 1803. He had been aware of Leon y Gama’s publication concerning Coatlicue, and asked if he could view the statue. With the help of the influential Bishop of Linares, the statue was dug up for a private viewing, and promptly buried after Humbolt’s departure. Coatlicue remained buried until 1824, when she was finally exhumed and placed in storage.
……..Today Coatlicue is prominently displayed in the Mexica Hall of the internationally acclaimed National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, inaugurated in 1964. This powerful image serves as a reminder to the people of Mexico and the world of a past civilization, religion, and artistic tradition, severed by the arrival of the Spanish, but not destroyed. Coatlicue becomes a symbol of Mexico in the art of the modern Mexican painters of the early twentieth century and of Chicano artists from the 1970s.