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Eternal Love: The Sacred Heart and Its Use in Mexican Folklore and Art

Learn the history and symbolism of the iconic sagrado corazón, "sacred heart," and how the flaming heart has become significant in Mexican culture, pop culture, fashion, and art. Plus, get inspiration and ideas for incorporating it into your decor.

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Photo: Rose Mendoza, Dulce Vida Travel. “El Sueño” handmade tin heart by Mexican artist Beto Dominguez

All About 'El Corazón Sagrado,' the Sacred Heart

During Valentine's Day season, you’re likely to see motifs of a heart with flame at the top known as el corazón sagrado, or "the sacred heart." It shows up everywhere in Mexico, from pop art and fine art, jewelry and T-shirts, tattoos and candles, gift wrap and more. Popular throughout the history of Roman Catholic culture, the symbol may date back even further than that. The sacred heart is a beloved symbol representing hope, pain, beauty, faith and love, but there is so much more to this iconic symbol.

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Photo: godongphoto

History of the Sacred Heart

A wounded heart surrounded by a crown of thorns and radiating a beautiful halo of light is the original image seen in Roman Catholicism, dating back to the 11th century. But the modern form we know today is said to have originated in 1673 with a French nun, Margaret Mary Alacoque, who claimed she saw an apparation of Christ with light shining from his wounds. She described his chest opening and light shining from his heart. The iconic image is often shown in the center of a figure of Jesus, or in his hands. “The sacred heart symbolizes Jesus' heart, embodying his divine love and compassion for humanity within the context of Catholic belief,” says Rose Mendoza of Dulce Vida Travel and author of the new book Mexican Folk Hearts.

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Photo: FotosdeAlma

Corazón Sagrado and Mexico

The sacred heart’s connection to Mexico dates back to the 16th century and the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. Catholicism was introduced through missionaries and el corazón sagrado became woven into Mexican culture and spirituality. “The concept of the sacred heart eventually resonated with the Mexican community as it evolved to represent compassion, a connection between their traditional beliefs and the indoctrination of the Catholic faith,” says Mendoza. You'll find many versions of painted tin hearts all over Mexico. Scroll through Instagram to find an array of illustrators, artists, designers, poets and small businesses celebrating the sacred heart.

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Photo: Mateusz Kuca

Elements of the Sacred Heart

There are vast variations of the sacred heart some cute and simple, others ornate. They all mix and match similar elements: A flame representing eternal hope, a bleeding heart and thorns representing pain and sacrifice, and shining rays of light to show the strength of spirit and love. It’s no wonder why this symbol is so adored it stands for universal, undying, eternal love.

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