A skimpy two-piece bathing suit, an overflowing bust, sunglasses and frosty margarita perched in her left hand.
Seems more like an apt description of a college girl in Cancún than an artistic depiction of a religious icon, but this is exactly how one alternative weekly newspaper in New Mexico has portrayed the image of the famed Virgin of Guadalupe on the cover of its summer guide. The front page of The Santa Fe Reporter, which has the voluptuous virgin surrounded by a shirtless cowboy and a beer drinking hiker, has drawn the ire of a number of Catholics, who voiced their disapproval to the paper.
“If your intent was to in effect slap Catholics across the face, by putting forth this public depiction of Our Lady as a party girl, during the very week that we honor her as our patroness, then I can only say that from my perspective, you succeeded,” wrote the Rev. Adam Lee Ortega y Ortiz, the rector of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, in a letter to the editor. “I must voice my outrage and disgust at the decision to depict Our Lady of Guadalupe in such a demeaning manner. I am personally and professionally insulted by the cover.”
In response to the uproar, The Reporter’s editor Alexa Schirtzinger defended the paper’s choice in a blog post, saying that it “reflected not just the diversity of activities we would recommend readers pursue this summer, but also the diversity of our city.”
“As a staff, we developed a concept we thought would offer a different take on the city's cultural and extracurricular landscape,” Schirtzinger wrote. “Rather than creating rifts, we hope to foster an honest discussion about different interpretations of culture and the imagery that accompanies it.”
And if readers were wondering what type of margarita the cartoon virgin was drinking: "With all the uproar about the depiction of her drinking alcohol, clearly it was a virgin margarita," the Reporter's publisher Andy Dudzik told Fox News Latino.
The icon of the Virgin of Guadalupe has become an important religious symbol in both Mexico and throughout the southwestern United States, especially among the region’s various Latino communities.
Traditional accounts claim that the Virgin Mary appeared to an indigenous peasant Juan Diego, asking him to build a church on the spot where her vision emerged. After a series of miracles – including the appearance of the Virgin Mary icon on a cloak - Juan Diego convinced the area’s bishop to build the church.
The cloak now is now displayed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, one of the most visited Marian shrines.
To some opponents of the cover, the newspaper’s choice brought up memories of the 2005 furor over a Danish cartoon with various depictions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad that some viewed as blasphemous.
“I wonder whether the Reporter would feel free to depict Mohammed as an alcohol-guzzling, womanizing hedonist?” Lee Ortega y Ortiz wrote. “I certainly hope not, not because to do so might be seen as a [compromise]of journalistic expression or free speech, but rather because it too has respect for our diverse cultures and religious beliefs and does not use its powers of the press to insult the faith beliefs of a large segment of its community.”
Despite the complaints from readers, the Santa Fe Reporter has refused to remove the image from its website.