11 Gossipy Confessions I Learned from Mexican Folk Art

Retablos.ru / Gonzalo Hernández
Retablos.ru / Gonzalo Hernández / Retablos.ru / Gonzalo Hernández


are a special kind of painting—they combine imagery with a sentence or two, thanking a saint or other religious figure for intervening in someone's life. Although the practice is ancient, it's now a form of Mexican folk art. Many retablos are funny and relatable across cultures.

Below, I've collected 11 tremendous examples of modern retablos, along with English translations. Prepare for a wild devotional ride!

1. UFO Cow Abduction vs. Jesus

(Image: I Thank the Virgin.)

Who's Being Thanked:

Jesus (specifically, Santo Niño de Atocha).

Thanked For: Alien cow abduction and debt forgiveness.

Full Translation: Juaquin Ramirez took his animals to drink water from the Jaguez and all of a sudden, a UFO showed up and took a cow that belonged to his friend. He gives infinite thanks to the boy of Atocha that they didn’t take him and that his buddy believed him and didn’t bill him for the cow. Texmelucan, 1969.

2. The Diarrhea that Saved a Life

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked:The Lord of Chalma


Thanked For: 9/11 diarrhea.

Full Translation: Alfredo Gutierrez gives thanks to Lord Chalma because he gave him a strong diarrhea and he became late for work as a waiter for one of the restaurants of the Twin Towers in New York and he got saved from dying. 11 Sep 2001.

Translation Note: The Spanish translates literally as "Mister Chalma," which leads us to some complex history surrounding The Lord of Chalma.

3. She Stopped Alphabetizing the Animals

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked:

Saint Francis of Assisi.

Thanked For: Saving the pets from boredom...and providing a new teaching job.

Full Translation: When they closed the school where my wife was a teacher for many years, she became very sad and acquired the habit of giving classes to the animals of the house. I, very worried, prayed to Saint Francisco and he made the miracle that finally they give her a place as a teacher at another school and now she doesn’t have the bad habit of alphabetizing the poor animals that were very bored.

4. A Candle for the Virgin

Who's Being Thanked:

The Virgin Mary (specifically, Our Lady of Guadalupe).

Thanked For: A good man.

Full Translation: Virgin of Guadalupe, I offer you this candle for allowing me to find a good man that loves me and asks me to marry him without caring about my life as a whore. I thank you, bringing you this to your altar. Carmen Hernandez. La Merced, Mexico 2004.

5. No More Eating in Bed

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked:

Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos (a revered statue).

Thanked For: Ant infestation.

Full Translation: My wife started eating in bed and it was filling everything with crumbs. They were very annoying. Besides, she was making so much noise chewing that I couldn’t sleep or watch TV in peace. The worst is that I’m on a diet. Thanks to my praise of [the Lady of] San Juan, an army of ants got in the bed, attracted to the food, and they stung her so much that she’s got no more will to eat in bedroom.

6. Holy Mother, Look at That Grim Reaper Tattoo

(Image: I Thank the Virgin.)

Who's Being Thanked:

The Virgin Mary.

Thanked For: Awesome tattoos.

Full Translation: Jeno Martines tattoo. Thanks Little Virgin for my tattoos. Tepita Mex. 21 Nov '07

Translation Note: Tatu is slang for "tattoo" (tatuaje), so it's possible that "Tatu" is a nickname for Mr. Martines.

7. Giving Thanks for Extreme Sports Injuries Averted

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked:

Saint Charbel Makhluf.

Thanked For: Preventing death from extreme sports.

Full Translation: I thank Saint Chanbel [sic] for saving me from the fall from the parachute because I broke a cord when I was practicing extreme sports with my friend La Chequio in Valle de Bravo. Toluca, Edo. Mex. 1994. [Barbara] Pietrasantra.

8. A Perfect Lion Act

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked:

The Virgin Mary (specifically, Our Lady of Guadalupe).

Thanked For: Preventing death at the circus.

Full Translation: April 30, 1980. A runaway lion jumped on me. Seeing the danger, I invoked the Little Virgin of Guadalupe, managing to subdue him without causing me any damage. My act went perfectly. -Seferino. It happened in the Atayde circus on the season in Mexico.

9. The Fire-Eater Made Whole

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked:

The Virgin Mary

Thanked For: Relief from mouth-burn.

Full Translation: When I was working as a fire-eater on the streets of the city of Mexico, I burned my mouth by accident. Asking you relief, Little Virgin, and you concede me that and I can go back to earn my living. Thank you for your favor. Toribio April 30, 1998

Translation Note: This one has various misspellings and grammatical errors, but we've tried to translate it as closely as possible to the original.

10. Extramarital Pharmacy Flirting

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked:

The Virgin Mary, specifically The Virgin of Zapopan, also known as Our Lady of Expectation.

Thanked For: Getting away with flirting.

Full Translation: They told my wife that I was flirting with a pharmacy employee and she received me furious and jealous and wanted to kick me out of the house, and only by the intervention of Our Lady of Zapopan, I could make her understand and convince her that they were all gossip from some nosy old lady.

Translation Note: Again this one has grammatical issues, and it's a massive run-on sentence. But hey, I'm just gossiping.

11. Near-Death By Trumpet

(Image: Retablos.)

Who's Being Thanked:

Saint Pancras of Rome.

Thanked For: Averting death due by trumpet.

Full Translation: The girl Rosita Fernandez thought it was very funny to blow her trumpet when her dad was sleeping but, in doing so, she caused him a heart attack that sent him to the hospital. She thanks Saint Pancracio that her dad didn’t die and promises not to do any more pranks.

More Like This!

Check out Retablos.ru, the I Thank the Virgin Tumblr, and Retablos & ex-votos on Facebook. If your favorite site for retablos isn't here, please leave it in the comments!

Special thanks to Holly Covella for research help on this post!