|The Mermaid in Folk Art Ceramics @ La Sirena NYC|
To illustrate what I mean, I will draw on one example of the use of the mermaid in Mexican folklore: Chalchiutlicue. Often represented as a mermaid, Chalchiutlicue is described not as half-human and half-fish, but as half-human and half-sea serpent. She is the goddess of water, rivers, seas, and storms (later also being attributed the goddess of baptism). The paradox in her character arises in that she embodies both life and death. She is the patroness of childbirth, but she is also credited with bringing a flood that “purified humanity,” killing many.
There are undeniable parallels in this particular instance of the mermaid in Mexican folklore and Christian thought—the association of female to the serpent and a flood that rid the world of evil. The mermaid is a fusion of indigenous and Spanish-European cultures. Christopher Columbus is said to have spotted mermaids (an already existing phenomenon in the European world) on his arrival to the New World (explained as a misconstruction of the manatee). This myth of the mermaid, from that point forward was enlarged and appropriated by New World cultures, popularizing these new “fusion” legends and myths with new imagery and symbols being used in folk art.
The mermaid nevertheless remains a popular icon, representing beauty, femininity, and the sea. Mermaids are part of the music, the art, the culture of Mexico. They are goddesses of the sea, not in the sense that they are religious deities or cultural gods but just in a simple, folkloric form—la diosa del mar. For Dina Leor, owner of La Sirena, the mermaid is a memory, of her time in Puerto Vallarta, and a symbol of her love for the ocean. When the name “La Sirena” popped up in her head, she described her reaction as, “THAT’S IT!” And that really was it; 16 years later you can still find La Sirena, a little piece of Mexico, here in New York City.
So, don’t miss out, stop on by: open daily from noon-7pm!
***All images were taken at La Sirena and are objects currently on sale***
Photos and Text by Lizz Melendez for La Sirena
For more information on the subject check out the following:
La Sirena Encantadora: The Mermaid in Mexican Folk Art & Legend