The Sad Night refers to the defeat that Hernán Cortés and his Spanish army suffered at the hands of the Aztec troops on June 30th 1520, in the outskirts of Tenochtitlan, present-day México City. Hernán Cortés, a brave, 35-year old warrior, left Spain at 19 and traveled throughout the then recently discovered Caribbean Islands, eventually crossing an unidentified territory from Yucatán, México to the Aztec capital.
After his momentary loss against the Aztecs, Cortés cried under the foliage of a great Ahuehuete tree that still lives in México City known as the tree of The Sad Night.
A year and a half later, the city was re-conquered by the Spanish, finally establishing the presence of the Spanish crown in México.
The bottle represents the illustrative Ahuehuete tree, witness to the weakness experienced by a man known for his strength and who influenced Mexican history.
The amber pyramid on the bottle’s case, is above all other Spanish symbols like the horse, the helmet, and the sword given that with the Spaniards arrival, Catholic churches were built on top of Aztec pyramids.
The case symbolizes the meeting of two completely different worlds. A disturbing encounter on the one hand; full of violence, cruelty, battle, and oppression for the Aztec community. On the other hand, the beginning of a new era with fresh ideas and technology.
Before the arrival of the Spaniards in México, the Tepeyac, was the most important sanctuary of the goddess of earth and fertility; the Goddess Coatlicue (the Lady of the Serpent Skirt) also known as Tonantzin (Our Revered Mother). It was destroyed by the Spaniards once the Catholic doctrine and the old-world beliefs were imposed.
It is believed that the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe occurred in 1531, ten years after Mexico-Tenochtitlan fell into the hands of the Spanish. Some experts confirm that the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe was invented by XVI century Spaniards to represent simultaneously both the Virgin Mary and the Aztec Mother Goddess Tonantzin in order to gain acceptance from the indigenous people. Regardless, the Virgin of Guadalupe succeeded in reconciling both cultures.
Consequently, the bottle is a representation of Aztec origins and beliefs shrouded by Catholicism. In the lower part of the bottle, the exposed clay and the popular Aztec symbols are not completely forgotten giving birth to the Mexican people.
Finally, the Catholics, Indigenous people, Creoles, Spanish, the dead and the living all reside under the cloak of the Virgin of Guadalupe; the brown-skinned virgin. She consoles the indigenous people for the loss of their gods.
The bottle’s all-white case is a reflection of the virgin’s glory, while the sides of the box are decorated with popular images of Aztec worship, venerating the Lady with the Serpent Skirt.
La Llorona or “Weeping Woman” is a 16th century Mexican legend. People talk of a weeping woman walking through town yelling, “Oh, my children” and then disappearing into the waters of a lake. No one knows much about this woman, only that she is searching for her children and that her cries seem to come from the underworld. This woman is therefore nicknamed, “La Llorona.”
During the Spanish conquest, the well-rehearsed job of the lamentatrices (“the lamenting ones”) emerged. These were indigenous women paid to weep des- perately during the funerals of senior officials that died in America without family and who had dishonored their memory.
The legend tells of one lamentatrice, a pregnant woman, who was crying desperately and not because she had been paid to do so, but because she went into labor in the middle of the funeral.
The bottle alludes to these women, the mournful, who dress in black cloaks and who cry tears of amber; a reference to the customs of the past. Meanwhile, the case represents a burial coffin for the deceased.
The role of the Tribunal of the Holy Office, head of the Catholic Church, was to destroy any gesture or motion made against Catholicism. Thus, making it one of the cruelest police authorities in history. In 1535, Alfonso Manrique, Inquisitor general of Spain, issued the title of inquisitor to Juan de Zumarraga, the first bishop of México.
The Holy Inquisition in México killed thousands of people who the church deemed heretics. It was permanently abolished in 1820.
The bottle, wrapped in a sculpted rope, symbolizes the torture of the guilty prisoners or those suspected of heresy in order to make them confess their guilt. The cross in the middle of the bottle represents the victim’s blood on the hands of ancient Catholics.
The bottle’s case represents the plants, herbs, and roots that were used to heal illnesses, but were considered heresies. Enough so to deem a person a witch and have them hung by the Holy Inquisition. In the middle of the case is the light of hope; the door to salvation for the souls of the innocent.