My informant, a twenty-three year old native of Chicago, revealed obtaining his first tattoo at the tender age of eighteen. When asked why he’d chosen to get one he claimed, “I was bored with my skin and wanted something… different”. My informant revealed tattoos are commonly seen in his hometown. All of his peers had a least one. My informant, however, chose by cover most of his body with ink. Tattoos are a form of physical maintenance. They are memory keepers that provide insight into persons past. Displayed on the left shoulder my informants arm above the elbow is an image of the lady of Guadalupe. According to the myth, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to “Juan Diego at the hill of Tepeyac in December of 1531. The Virgin Mary was said to have directed Juan Diego to go to the bishop of Mexico, Juan de Zumarrag, with a request to have him build a church on the place where she appeared. There she promised she would be the natives’ mother, comfort them in their sorrows, and hear their prayers, tears, and entreaties. As proof of this, she had Juan Diego collect bowers from the hill at the time when they were not in season and take them in his cloak (tilma) to Zumarraga. When Juan Diego unfolded his tilma, the virgin’s image was imprinted on it.” (Our Lady of Guadalupe: An ambiguous symbol, Jody Brant Smith)
The lady of Guadalupe is both culturally and religiously significant to my informant. Her figure was commonly seen in his community. Inserting her image was a form of connecting with his Mexican roots. But more importantly connecting with his faith the saint is a religious symbol. As a Christian my informer revealed getting that specific tattoo at time when he was “looking for religion… or for God”. The tattoo not only holds a memory of a specific time but also serves as a form of devotion to his faith.
When asked about the process of choosing a tattoo artist? My informant claimed its “pure luck.” Tattoos are voluntarily acquired and sometimes require little planning. My informer has many tattoos and admitted to being addicted. In recent years tattoos have become more main stream. They are a form of art that is beguiling and somewhat mysterious. When asked what attracted him to body ink, he simply said “I liked the way it looked.”