|Geting tattoos and body mods helped me to feel like a warrior|
“I’m the first demon woman,” she says.
Dubbed ‘Vampire Woman’ by the Mexican media, the 35-year-old from Zapopan city in Jalisco state has 98 per cent ink coverage, scores of facial piercings, six teflon implants in her chest and arms, four horns on her head, four fangs, and – since these pictures were taken – a forked tongue. “I’m impersonating Lilith,” she adds.
A mythological figure in Jewish folklore, Lilith was Adam’s first wife – whom God made equal to him – but she left Eden when Adam refused to let her to go on top during sex, and Maria has identified with the ancient ghoul since surviving 10 years of domestic abuse at the hands of her ex-husband.
Now, with her blood-curdling appearance, Maria has risen from the shadows to take Mexico by storm as a tattoo artist, suspension performer and television celebrity on the National Geographic channel.
Brought up in a conservative yet loving Catholic family, Maria’s passions were always left-field, including Mexican horror movies where vampires slugged it out with wrestlers such as El Santo.
“I love the aesthetic in those films, she says, “and I loved the idea of being immortal.”
When Maria’s father took her to England for his work as a chef, in the early 1980s, she was fascinated by modded people she saw on the streets. But while Maria got her first tatt at 14 – a skull with horns that she hid under her school uniform – she didn’t transform into Lilith until after she got married.
Hitched at 17, Maria thought that she’d found her ideal man. “I thought that he was the one,” she tells us. “He made me laugh, and… oh boy! When you fall in love, you do stupid things. He was a drug addict and came from a twisted family, and a few years later I was supporting four children and being beaten by the same man who’d made me laugh. I felt as though I was going to die.”
At the same time, Maria’s father died from a heart attack, but rather than turn to God for strength – as many Catholics in Mexico do – Maria started to internalise her struggle. “I’m not interested in religion at all,” she confesses. “Through the years, I’ve realised that God is the energy that lives inside us and we decide what to do with that energy.”
Putting her energy into art, Maria began to learn how to tattoo from friends in the business, and realised that she had to leave her husband.
In 2001, she walked out with her children and started a new life. At first she worked as a legal assistant at a local court, but within a year she had set up a tattoo shop, called Bodily Addiction, in her home. Then, she had free reign to accelerate her transformation.
“Everyone is modified by things such as pregnancy, aging or losing teeth, but getting tattoos and body mods helped me to think of myself as a warrior,” she says. “It was particularly important to me when my face was tattooed, as it’s the most sacred part of the body, and the modifications to it make me feel so much stronger.”
To complete her look, Maria uses accessories such as chains, contact lenses and jewellery, and she loves to try out different characters.
“I can make myself look like a cyber vampire or a Victorian demon. Why not play with the possibilities?” she quips.
Maria says that her two boys and two girls, aged 8-13, aren’t bothered by her appearance, as she’s looked this way since they were born. Maria’s mother sadly passed away three years ago – also from a heart attack – and Maria still grieves for her, but some of her friends have shunned her, even though they know what drives her Satanic style.
“Luckily, they don’t pay my bills, so I couldn’t care less,” she says.
With four children to look after, Maria is always concerned about cash, and she tops up her coffers by playing percussion and making videos for heavy metal band Eva Lumbre. She also performs as a suspension artist, and says that having sharp metal hooks pierced through her skin is like a flesh offering to her parents, who taught her to be strong.
Keen to promote awareness of domestic abuse through art, Maria has written and directed a dance show about her life, called I Am Scarred, but her biggest break came when her manager, Pepe Rodríguez, persuaded the National Geographic channel to feature her in the Spanish language show, Taboo Latin America.
After appearing in an episode called ‘Alternative Bodies’, which aired last year, Maria was asked to promote the second series of the programme, and has just been offered her own show.
“People in Mexico have become more open to tattoos and body modifications since Taboo was shown on TV,” she says. “Rather than shaking their heads and hurrying away, people that I pass in the street now stop me to say ‘hi’.”
And, now sharing her life with a loving boyfriend who she’s been with since 2003, it looks as though the demon Maria wears on the outside is slowly silencing the monsters within.
See more of Maria at Mujer-vampiro.com and Myspace.com/Evalumbre