This article discusses iconic visual images of three powerful women: the Virgin of the Apocalypse, as painted by eighteenth-century indigenous Mexican artist Manuel Cabrera; Marlene Dietrich; and Dolores del Río. In Cabrera's work, the Virgin Mary is depicted with wings, actively protecting her child and her people with great energy—almost the opposite of better-known images of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Artfully controlling her own image, Dietrich quietly flaunted her sexual power over the young John Wayne. Finally, del Río used her image and extraordinary beauty to change the way American audiences perceived Latina women. Although she violated most of the gender-based expectations for Mexican women in her personal life, del Río maintained her image as a great lady (not the typical Hollywood image of a Mexican “spitfire”). Catholic filmmaker John Ford even chose to portray her as the Virgin Mary. These images made, and still make, a difference.

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