Last updateFri, 17 Oct 2014 1pm

Young dreamer turns childhood passion into religious art enterprise

Since he was three years old, Gerardo Goss has been fascinated by the Virgin of Zapopan.

“I wanted one, but my parents told me it wasn’t a toy,” says the now-29-year-old Tlaquepaque artist.

So Coss had to content himself with a statue of the Virgin Mary from a creche scene. He relates how, at the age of 8, “I made her a paper dress and pulled her around in a cart,” simulating the famed, annual romeria (parade) of the Virgin of Zapopan, which is set to take place this Sunday, October 12.

His parents were not that enthused, especially when the boy cut up some fine sheets his grandmother had just bought, in order to make a dress for a Virgin figure.

Coss’s passion continued unabated until, at 13, he began to teach himself sculpture, painting, embroidery, jewelry making and all the arts necessary for constructing and decorating the diminutive, 34-centimeter-tall figure that is the object of a near frenzy of religious fervor centering in Zapopan, Guadalajara and Chapala every year from May to October, climaxing in the romeria. (Many distinct Virgins are honored in Mexico, all of course representing the mother of Jesus, although scholars say that this reverence recapitulates prehispanic worship of the goddess Tonantzin and that, some 400 years ago, Franciscan missionaries, who these days spearhead Virgin of Zapopan festivities from their monastery here, supplanted Tonantzin with their Virgin.)

Now that Coss’s childhood hobby has blossomed into a serious enterprise involving local and foreign clients who commission various religious figures, many of his relatives have joined him in his busy workshop in a modest house where they make and restore statues as well as do antique restoration.

His sister-in-law, for example, does embroidery, often using thread and beads made of gold, silver, natural pearls and stones such as emeralds or zirconium. The fabrics, which are usually cotton or silk rather than synthetic, are normally imported from France or Spain.

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