At the airport in San Antonio, late evening, shift at the Starbucks inside the secure area, kid had a rather eloquent, nicely drawn tattoo of the Virgen de Guadalupe, and he said something to me, might’ve been Bubba’s shirt from Atomic Tattoo in Austin that I had on.
The exquisite detail, on that kid’s tat, not just some heavy prison tat, not an amateur ink job, spoke to quality. Probably very expensive. He was proud, rightfully so.
The image itself, the first time I encountered it, essentially as an archetype — Santa Fe, NM. More than 25 years ago. This prefaces and presages the current youthful trend, as some of them weren’t even born yet, and others were still in diapers. Pretty narrow window of time, for me, not long after a degree from Arizona.
I spent a good portion of my youth tramping about the Southwest.
So the place in Santa Fe was a locals dive kind of a joint, low ceiling, maybe ashtrays on the tables, I seem to recall the heavy ochre walls, timbered roof, low doorways, tall sills, and, best I can recall, maybe four or five four-tops with an appropriate number of chairs. New Mexico cuisine before that was a thing. Hot Chile and corn tortillas. Think I passed on the menudo, “no mas crudo.”
Don’t think she waited on us, and I do recall my date, but what fascinated me, was the other waitress, bare arms in a real peasant dress, blouse with a square top, and her left arm? Elbow to shoulder was a Virgen de Guadalupe in India Ink glory. The image was bold, perhaps roughly drawn, heavy lines, clearly identifiable as the iconic symbol.
Seen it on at candles, then, this was also before “the internet,” so the probable range of dispersal was much more limited. More a regional icon, best guess.
That singular image has stuck with me, one of those events, frozen in time, aspic-captured in my memory.
Hadn’t thought about it for years, then the guy at the airport, he turned his arm over to show the high quality work.
Ink, like what I saw, that time in Santa Fe, not long after the Harmonic Convergence, still in its orb and thrall? It’s like seeing a piece of art, and having that museum moment, or whatever — it’s the moment that gets inscribed. Something about the image, my station in life, what the symbol means, and the tales told about the miracles surrounding the stories.