In The Image Burns, philosopher Georges Didi-Huberman notes the following with regard to the relationship between a historical document and “barbaric” events:

Walter Benjamin described this experience very well in a text that the fascists threw into the fire. This text, which he was writing when he committed suicide, gave this experience the greatest importance. “Barbarianism is hidden in the concept of culture itself,” writes Benjamin. This is so true that the opposite is also true: Shouldn’t we recognize each document of barbarianism as a cultural document that offers not simply history, but rather the possibility of a critical and dialectical archaeology?1

This essay narrates the history of a “document of barbarianism”: the history of the martyrdom of the Virgin of El Zape, one of the many Marian devotions introduced by the Jesuits during the evangelization of...

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