Retablos.ru / Gonzalo Hernández
Retablos.ru / Gonzalo Hernández

11 Gossipy Confessions I Learned from Mexican Folk Art

Retablos.ru / Gonzalo Hernández
Retablos.ru / Gonzalo Hernández

Retablos are a special kind of painting—they combine imagery with a sentence or two, thanking a saint or other religious figure for intervening in someone's life. Although the practice is ancient, it's now a form of Mexican folk art. Many retablos are funny and relatable across cultures.

Below, I've collected 11 tremendous examples of modern retablos, along with English translations. Prepare for a wild devotional ride!

1. UFO Cow Abduction vs. Jesus

Who's Being Thanked: Jesus (specifically, Santo Niño de Atocha).

Thanked For: Alien cow abduction and debt forgiveness.

Full Translation: Juaquin Ramirez took his animals to drink water from the Jaguez and all of a sudden, a UFO showed up and took a cow that belonged to his friend. He gives infinite thanks to the boy of Atocha that they didn’t take him and that his buddy believed him and didn’t bill him for the cow. Texmelucan, 1969.

2. The Diarrhea that Saved a Life

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked: The Lord of Chalma.

Thanked For: 9/11 diarrhea.

Full Translation: Alfredo Gutierrez gives thanks to Lord Chalma because he gave him a strong diarrhea and he became late for work as a waiter for one of the restaurants of the Twin Towers in New York and he got saved from dying. 11 Sep 2001.

Translation Note: The Spanish translates literally as "Mister Chalma," which leads us to some complex history surrounding The Lord of Chalma.

3. She Stopped Alphabetizing the Animals

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked: Saint Francis of Assisi.

Thanked For: Saving the pets from boredom...and providing a new teaching job.

Full Translation: When they closed the school where my wife was a teacher for many years, she became very sad and acquired the habit of giving classes to the animals of the house. I, very worried, prayed to Saint Francisco and he made the miracle that finally they give her a place as a teacher at another school and now she doesn’t have the bad habit of alphabetizing the poor animals that were very bored.

4. A Candle for the Virgin

Who's Being Thanked: The Virgin Mary (specifically, Our Lady of Guadalupe).

Thanked For: A good man.

Full Translation: Virgin of Guadalupe, I offer you this candle for allowing me to find a good man that loves me and asks me to marry him without caring about my life as a whore. I thank you, bringing you this to your altar. Carmen Hernandez. La Merced, Mexico 2004.

5. No More Eating in Bed

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked: Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos (a revered statue).

Thanked For: Ant infestation.

Full Translation: My wife started eating in bed and it was filling everything with crumbs. They were very annoying. Besides, she was making so much noise chewing that I couldn’t sleep or watch TV in peace. The worst is that I’m on a diet. Thanks to my praise of [the Lady of] San Juan, an army of ants got in the bed, attracted to the food, and they stung her so much that she’s got no more will to eat in bedroom.

6. Holy Mother, Look at That Grim Reaper Tattoo

Who's Being Thanked: The Virgin Mary.

Thanked For: Awesome tattoos.

Full Translation: Jeno Martines tattoo. Thanks Little Virgin for my tattoos. Tepita Mex. 21 Nov '07

Translation Note: Tatu is slang for "tattoo" (tatuaje), so it's possible that "Tatu" is a nickname for Mr. Martines.

7. Giving Thanks for Extreme Sports Injuries Averted

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked: Saint Charbel Makhluf.

Thanked For: Preventing death from extreme sports.

Full Translation: I thank Saint Chanbel [sic] for saving me from the fall from the parachute because I broke a cord when I was practicing extreme sports with my friend La Chequio in Valle de Bravo. Toluca, Edo. Mex. 1994. [Barbara] Pietrasantra.

8. A Perfect Lion Act

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked: The Virgin Mary (specifically, Our Lady of Guadalupe).

Thanked For: Preventing death at the circus.

Full Translation: April 30, 1980. A runaway lion jumped on me. Seeing the danger, I invoked the Little Virgin of Guadalupe, managing to subdue him without causing me any damage. My act went perfectly. -Seferino. It happened in the Atayde circus on the season in Mexico.

9. The Fire-Eater Made Whole

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked: The Virgin Mary

Thanked For: Relief from mouth-burn.

Full Translation: When I was working as a fire-eater on the streets of the city of Mexico, I burned my mouth by accident. Asking you relief, Little Virgin, and you concede me that and I can go back to earn my living. Thank you for your favor. Toribio April 30, 1998

Translation Note: This one has various misspellings and grammatical errors, but we've tried to translate it as closely as possible to the original.

10. Extramarital Pharmacy Flirting

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked: The Virgin Mary, specifically The Virgin of Zapopan, also known as Our Lady of Expectation.

Thanked For: Getting away with flirting.

Full Translation: They told my wife that I was flirting with a pharmacy employee and she received me furious and jealous and wanted to kick me out of the house, and only by the intervention of Our Lady of Zapopan, I could make her understand and convince her that they were all gossip from some nosy old lady.

Translation Note: Again this one has grammatical issues, and it's a massive run-on sentence. But hey, I'm just gossiping.

11. Near-Death By Trumpet

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked: Saint Pancras of Rome.

Thanked For: Averting death due by trumpet.

Full Translation: The girl Rosita Fernandez thought it was very funny to blow her trumpet when her dad was sleeping but, in doing so, she caused him a heart attack that sent him to the hospital. She thanks Saint Pancracio that her dad didn’t die and promises not to do any more pranks.

More Like This!

Check out Retablos.ru, the I Thank the Virgin Tumblr, and Retablos & ex-votos on Facebook. If your favorite site for retablos isn't here, please leave it in the comments!

Special thanks to Holly Covella for research help on this post!

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John MacDougall, Getty Images
Stolpersteine: One Artist's International Memorial to the Holocaust
John MacDougall, Getty Images
John MacDougall, Getty Images

The most startling memorial to victims of the Holocaust may also be the easiest to miss. Embedded in the sidewalks of more than 20 countries, more than 60,000 Stolpersteine—German for “stumbling stones”—mark the spots where victims last resided before they were forced to leave their homes. The modest, nearly 4-by-4-inch brass blocks, each the size of a single cobblestone, are planted outside the doorways of row houses, bakeries, and coffee houses. Each tells a simple yet chilling story: A person lived here. This is what happened to them.

Here lived Hugo Lippers
Born 1878
Arrested 11/9/1938 — Altstrelitzer prison
Deported 1942 Auschwitz
Murdered

The project is the brainchild of the German artist Gunter Demnig, who first had the idea in the early 1990s as he studied the Nazis' deportation of Sinti and Roma people. His first installations were guerrilla artwork: According to Reuters, Demnig laid his first 41 blocks in Berlin without official approval. The city, however, soon endorsed the idea and granted him permission to install more. Today, Berlin has more than 5000.

Demnig lays a Stolpersteine.
Artist Gunter Demnig lays a Stolpersteine outside a residence in Hamburg, Germany in 2012.
Patrick Lux, Getty Images

The Stolpersteine are unique in their individuality. Too often, the millions of Holocaust victims are spoken of as a nameless mass. And while the powerful memorials and museums in places such as Berlin and Washington, D.C. are an antidote to that, the Stolpersteine are special—they are decentralized, integrated into everyday life. You can walk down a sidewalk, look down, and suddenly find yourself standing where a person's life changed. History becomes unavoidably present.

That's because, unlike gravestones, the stumbling stones mark an important date between a person’s birth and death: the day that person was forced to abandon his or her home. As a result, not every stumbling stone is dedicated to a person who was murdered. Some plaques commemorate people who fled Europe and survived. Others honor people who were deported but managed to escape. The plaques aim to memorialize the moment a person’s life was irrevocably changed—no matter how it ended.

The ordinariness of the surrounding landscape—a buzzing cafe, a quaint bookstore, a tree-lined street—only heightens that effect. As David Crew writes for Not Even Past, “[Demnig] thought the stones would encourage ordinary citizens to realize that Nazi persecution and terror had begun on their very doorsteps."

A man in a shop holding a hammer making a Stolpersteine.
Artisan Michael Friedrichs-Friedlaender hammers inscriptions into the brass plaques at the Stolpersteine manufacturing studio in Berlin.
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

While Demnig installs every single Stolpersteine himself, he does not work alone. His project, which stretches from Germany to Brazil, relies on the research of hundreds of outside volunteers. Their efforts have not only helped Demnig create a striking memorial, but have also helped historians better document the lives of individuals who will never be forgotten.

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Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images
60 Years Later, a Lost Stanley Kubrick Script Has Been Found
Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images
Evening Standard/Stringer, Getty Images

A “lost” screenplay co-written by famed filmmaker Stanley Kubrick has been found after 60 years, Vulture reports.

The screenplay is an adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s novella Burning Secret, which Vulture describes as a reverse Lolita (plot summary for those who forgot high school English class: a man enters a relationship with a woman because of his obsession with her 12-year-old daughter). In Burning Secret, a man befriends an adolescent boy in order to seduce his mother. Zweig’s other works have inspired films like Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel (which the director claims he "stole" from Zweig's novels Beware of Pity and The Post-Office Girl).

Kubrick’s screenplay adaptation is co-written by novelist Calder Willingham and dated October 24, 1956. Although the screenplay bears a stamp from MGM’s screenwriting department, Nathan Abrams—the Bangor University professor who discovered the script—thinks it’s likely the studio found it too risqué for mass audiences.

“The child acts as an unwitting go-between for his mother and her would-be lover, making for a disturbing story with sexuality and child abuse churning beneath its surface,” Abrams told The Guardian. It's worth noting, however, that Kubrick directed an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita in 1962, which MGM distributed, and it was also met with a fair share of controversy.

Abrams said the screenplay for Burning Secret is complete enough that it could be created by filmmakers today. He noted that the discovery is particularly exciting because it confirms speculations Kubrick scholars have had for decades.

“Kubrick aficionados knew he wanted to do it, [but] no one ever thought it was completed,” Abrams told The Guardian.

The Guardian reports that Abrams found the screenplay while researching his book Eyes Wide Shut: Stanley Kubrick and the Making of His Final Film. The screenplay is owned by the family of one of Kubrick’s colleagues.

[h/t Vulture]

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