Corn Mother Visits Madre del Mundo
With Corn Mother and Madre del Mundo at Alma de Mujer, Austin, TX
Corn Mother sits in a basket with offerings that have accumulated over the last year. She’s surrounded by tobacco prayer ties, corn offerings, feathers, dirt from certain places, dried plants, and items people have gifted.
In June, we were taking a trip to Austin for my daughter’s birthday. I thought about Corn Mother and her desire for travel.
“Not this trip,” I told her. Navigating the airport with a toddler, toddler supplies, the hordes of people. It felt too precarious. I fretted that Corn Mother and her basket would get tossed about, turned over, or accidentally stepped on by impatient toddler feet.
Yet, on the morning of the trip, as I was finishing my packing, I could feel her nagging at me. She was playful but also entirely serious. An old woman giving me the eye. Grandmother through and through:
“You know you’re going to take me with you. You’ll find a way.”
Down to the wire, with our airport ride waiting downstairs, I begin raiding my closet for a way to transport Corn Mother securely. Of all things, I find a Tupperware container. It seems too crass and unbefitting a Corn Mother, but I don’t have time to worry about it. In she goes, with her bundle of blessings. The perfect fit—just big enough for her and still small enough to fit into a canvas bag and stow her under the airplane seat.
We leave. It is our first trip out of state together—me and Corn Mother.
The trip was a whirlwind because almost the minute we arrived, my daughter became ill with a nasty stomach bug that consumed days of our vacation. I didn’t even have time to wonder what this pilgrimage was all about.
Then it just happened.
Every time I visit Austin—if at all possible—I return to Alma de Mujer. This land is beloved to many, and for me, it is the coming together of land and people who changed my life. The land here is officially in the care of the Indigenous Women’s Network, and at one time, this was a busy hub for visionaries, educators, activists, healers, artists gathering and collaborating in service of Mother Earth.
Atop a knoll overlooking Cypress Creek at Alma de Mujer sits Madre del Mundo, the Mother who cradles the Earth in her lap. She is the work of Marsha Gomez—artist, activist, and one of the founding mothers of the Indigenous Woman’s Network.
Here’s where I still wonder at the turn of events, the weaving of the Great Mother.
I can’t even count the number of times I have visited Madre del Mundo, brought her offerings, bent over to touch her cheek. I got married on this land. I wrote my whole dissertation with the community here—a dissertation which includes a retelling of the story of how Madre del Mundo came to reside at Alma. And for all of that, as I was packing up Corn Mother for our trip, I had no shred of insight as to why she was so insistent on coming. Then, as I stepped foot onto the land at Alma and reunited with my friends Brenda and Beth, the realization hit me in a flood of recognition that surged through my body.
Madre del Mundo, this Matrix of Life who cradles the Earth in her lap, was created by Marsha Gomez, commissioned by Genevieve Vaughan, for the Mother’s Day Peace Action in 1988. Held in Nevada on Western Shoshone land, the Mother’s Day Peace Action was in protest of the ongoing nuclear testing being conducted on this land, where over the course of four decades, over 900 nuclear detonations occurred. Madre del Mundo was installed as part of the Peace Action on land near one of the test sites and was confiscated by the Bureau of Land Management.
Madre was later released.
To this day, in front of Madre del Mundo at Alma de Mujer in Austin, TX, there is an engraved stone that reads:
Madre del Mundo
Artist: Marsha A. Gomez
Mother’s Day Peace Action
On a hot day in June, Brenda, Beth and I walk up to Madre with Corn Mother. We make our offerings to her.
This becomes my first stop on this pilgrimage with Corn Mother. Of course it has to be here. To the lap of the Great Mother who took her seat at a Mother’s Day protest.
Before leaving Austin, I am able to catch a quick lunch with my cousin. During our meal, he brings up:
“Hey, did you know Grandpa Jim’s dad worked on the atomic bomb?”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” I tell him. Where do I begin?
Right after our lunch, I walk by a store selling handmade items. I see prayer flags in a basket and pick one up. It is bright yellow with a depiction of rain clouds that remind me of desert monsoons. The black lettering reads:
The Earth is Alive.
It is handmade by folks at the Lama Foundation in New Mexico, about 90 miles from Los Alamos. I buy the flag. Back in Arizona, I remove Corn Mother from her Tupperware travel box and return her to her basket. I cover her with this prayer flag.
Today, on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, there are no words that are adequate to the day.
Somewhere in the world
Selu is always singing.*
*From Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother’s Wisdom by Marilou Awiakta