The intensive image: Transculturation, creativity and presence in the cult of María Lionza

Roger Canals


The cult of María Lionza is an Afro-Latin American religion native to Venezuela which usually involves episodes of spirit possession. Its most notable figure is María Lionza, a plural goddess imagined and represented in different ways (as an Indian, White, Mestizo, and, although rarely, Black woman), and constantly reinvented. In this article, I propose to define the image of María Lionza as an intensive image, that is, as a multiple and ever-changing image, permanently open to a process of differentiation. My main argument is that this image may function as a medium—thus facilitating contact between “believers” and the “spiritual entities” themselves—insofar as it is constantly reinvented through acts of visual creativity. I also discuss the affinities between the concept of “intensity” and that of “transculturation,” a term initially coined by Fernando Ortiz.

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/714067