MARFITA: A Toltec Methodology*
MARFITA: A Toltec Methodology*
MARFITA: A Toltec Methodology*


Invoking Art: In the ethno-poetics and performance of the shaman, my people, the Indians, did not split the artistic from the functional, the sacred from the secular, art from everyday life.

—Gloria Anzaldúa


To investigate daily life in order to translate it into thinking is a dangerous venture, since it is necessary, particularly here in América, to make the grave mistake of contradicting the frameworks to which we are attached.

—Rodolfo Kusch



Maps and mapping are the thematic running throughout this writing. It operates at multiple registers: as metaphor for visualizing and grouping modes of expressing thought, as organizational tool of the text itself, and as a method for making political and aesthetic interventions where called for. Whereas the ultimate aim is to delineate a methodology of the Toltec, so named following the work of Gloria Anzaldúa and Laura E. Perez in concert, “(re)mapping” is a way to name the primary activity of that figure. However the figure and the activity are inextricable. The figure of the Toltec is aligned in the paper with Walter Mignolo’s “fractured subject,” and through this alignment and others, it is conceived as a figure whose daily constitution happens by activating a desire to be always involved in a remapping of the world and to the modes of expression given to the thoughtwork aimed at capturing and articulating that activity. Gestures as to how this operates in concrete terms are provided in the process of describing and rethinking the installation project MARFITA.

On Mapping Me Mapping MARFITA

I am currently involved in a largescale installation project entitled MARFITA. This is the Spanish diminution of the name of Marfa, a semi-rural town in far west TX, population approximately 2,100. Founded in the late 1800’s, the town has served as a center for the many ranches in the area, as home base for generations of migrant farmworkers moving between Texas and California as the seasons dictated, as the site of the US Army’s Fort D.A. Russell, and most popularly today as home to canonical American artist Donald Judd’s permanent installation of his own works and select others, under the guardianship of the Judd Foundation and the Chinati Foundation. I say most popular because this collection draws over 10,000 visitors a year to what has become a pilgrimage site of sorts for Minimalist, Post-modern, and contemporary art lovers from around the globe. It has yet one more attraction however, a pilgrimage site proper, in all the religious and sacred implications that come with the use of the term ‘pilgrimage.’

In 1997, the Virgin Mary appeared to Hector Sanchez, in the backyard of his own house, the last residential home one passes before entering the long driveway up to the Chinati Foundation’s main office. Less than half a mile from Judd’s famous cement blocks, Sanchez erected an altar to honor the apparition. Complete with a hand painted statue of the Virgin overlooking a lovingly dug and cemented shallow grotto, and housed within an upturned bath tub, this installation stands resplendently rasquache, and is positioned so that Chinati is always in her sights. She too draws pilgrims, and these are accounted for in the log kept by Sanchez’s wife, Ester. These two groups are largely unknown to one another, though their itinerant paths surely cross frequently at the auspicious, gravelly roundabout that swings pilgrims decisively toward one site or the other.



*The full essay can be found in El Mundo Zurdo: Selected Works from the Meetings of the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa, 2010 & 2011, 135 - 154. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Press, 2012.