Popular devotion captures the scandal of the Cross, contravenes distinctions between heaven and earth, male and female, the sacred and profane. Saint Librada, who is popular in Argentina, exhibits such boundary crossings.
According to Marcella Althaus-Reid in Indecent Theology, “Santa Librada is worshipped as the female crucified Christ of the urban poor.” She is an ambiguous Christ/Mary: female like Mary but crucified like Christ. Often she is portrayed as blonde, as Jesus tends to be. Thus, Mary transgresses the site of the Cross — (like a female Jesus) — while Jesus becomes a transvestite, adopting the garb and look of Mary, for instance by wearing a shawl and necklace– in a “pattern of divine transvestism.”
As a boundary crosser, “Librada’s worship originated around legal and social transgression. An old traditional prayer asks her to deliver a person from the police because she is the protector of petty thieves and bandits, who are understood in Argentinian society as thieves by necessity, not choice.” Librada is similar to other Santos Bandidos (Bandit Saints), who are heroes for assisting the poor to take risks for their own survival, for instance by small thievery. Thus, boundaries between virtue and vice are also blurred.
Saint Librada is not to be confused with Saint Liberata, aka Saint Wilgefortis – herself gender-transgressing. She is known as the bearded Saint. See: Paris Review: the Bearded Saint
See also: bearded woman