A Following Among the Faithfully Hip

Things Catholic have become hip among the so-called Generation X set, fascinated with a denomination that either dominated their family life or that they know very little about.

They are decorating their homes with new or reproduction religious items. Mexican-made folk art crafted from metal, such as recycled beer cans, or tin treated to look rusty are among the trendiest. Even hotter, and had for only a couple of dollars, are mass-produced votive candles wrapped with stickers depicting Jesus, the Virgin Mary or saints.

Velour aprons and pillows depicting the Virgin Mary in vivid colors sell as fast as those bearing Elvis at Na Na's Trading Co. in Costa Mesa and Santa Monica.

At the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana, the store can't keep in stock enough stick-shift knobs picturing Our Lady of Guadalupe. Other favored fare: three-dimensional pictures of holy figures in ornate tin frames, night lights and soap shaped in the Virgin's form and black velvet paintings of related figures and topics.

Our Lady is the most favored image, in part because of its popularity in Mexican culture. In addition to its traditional uses, it is favored by Latino gang members on jackets and as tattoos. Just as gangs have influenced mainstream fashion with their baggy attire, the same is happening with their use of Our Lady.

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