MEXICO CITY — Before her death, 99-year-old Catarina Orduña Pérez had one final wish: a giant statue of a dick on top of her grave.
Her family unveiled the completed monument — a 5-and-a-half-foot-tall cock and balls weighing nearly 600 pounds — mounted on her tomb at a cemetery in Mexico this past weekend as a “recognition of her love and joy for life.”
“She wanted to break the paradigm of everything Mexican, where things are sometimes hidden because of not having an open mind,” her grandson Álvaro Mota Limón told VICE World News in an interview. “She was always very avant-garde, very forward-thinking about things.”
Doña Cata, as she was lovingly known throughout the small town of Misantla in the eastern state of Veracruz, had a particular affinity for penises, and what she believed they represented.
“She always said, in the Mexican sense, that we were vergas,” said Mota Limón.
There are few words in Mexican slang as dynamic as “verga,” which is perhaps best translated in English as “cock” due to its general use as a profanity. Depending on how it’s phrased, “verga” can be a brutal insult, telling someone to go fuck themselves (vete a la verga) or that they’re not worth shit (vales verga). Or it can be a compliment, a badge of honor, that if something is “verga,” it’s cool or badass.
Doña Cata often used it with that sort of colloquial pride when referring to the members of her family as vergas, according to her grandson; that they were people of moral fortitude, with “integrity, courage, passion, and at the same time, love and joy,” said Mota Limón.
The penis statue on Doña Cata's grave took a team of 12 people nearly a month to build. They had particular difficultly with the testicles. (Photo courtesy of Álvaro Mota Limón)
The great-grandmother had grown up in poverty and not attended school as a child, but through her hard work and determination became an influential member in the town of Misantla. Politicians often made a point to visit and court her, knowing the clout she wielded in the area.
Doña Cata instilled the message to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren that they were vergas and could accomplish whatever they wanted, especially the women, in a country steeped in machismo, said Mota Limón. Many members of the family went on to wide-ranging careers. His sister got her doctorate degree. Mota Limón himself completed two master’s degrees and even became mayor of the town for a period.
Mota Limón recalled how his grandmother “saw life with great optimism and that problems shouldn’t overwhelm us.” She conceptualized that idea to the family with the metaphor of a penis, meaning when you’re verga, “one should not give up. When problems arose, you needed to face them head-on.”
Over the years, Doña Cata had told her family and people around Misantla that when she died, she wanted her tomb adorned with a penis. Mota Limón thought it was just Grandma being Grandma: bold, spunky, and playful as always. He didn’t think she was serious. But before her death, he asked her about the longstanding request.
“She told me that it was her desire so that no one would forget her and that everything we loved about her would be remembered more easily,” he said. After Doña Cata’s death, on Jan. 20, 2021, “we talked as a family and decided to make her dream come true.”
While it took a while to put the process in motion, Mota Limón called a local engineer in town who builds plastic products, like water tanks and children’s playsets, and asked if he was up to the task.
“At first I thought it was a joke,” said Isidro Lavoignet, the engineer behind the statue. “Because it’s not very common to see these kinds of sculptures or monuments, and even less so in the memory of someone who’s deceased.”
After Mota Limón told him several times that he was serious about the request, Lavoignet got to work. It took nearly a month and a team of 12 people, including a carpenter, a sander, a sculptor, and a carver, to build the statue. They got particularly delayed on the ballsack when the first attempt was “disfigured” and they had to start the process again of “melting materials to give it the necessary amplitude so that the testicles could be formed.”
But while Lavoignet said the project was the “strangest that we’ve ever built,” he wasn’t really surprised knowing Doña Cata, because she was someone who “broke taboos.”
Photos of the grave quickly circulated on social media after it was unveiled, on July 23. The local media storm around the dick statue has also led to some interesting new requests for Lavoignet’s business. He recently was asked to build a gravestone shaped like a dump truck by the family of a deceased person who worked years in the construction industry.
But not everyone is happy about the penis statue in Misantla, Mota Limón acknowledged.
“Of every 10 people, I think that around seven see (the statue) positively, and if they don’t see it as a good thing, they at least respect (Doña Cata’s wishes),” he said. “There’s others, who in their conservative values are very closed-minded, very square, who see it poorly.”
Doña Cata's grandson said that the family had discussed the backlash when planning the statue and were prepared for the “onslaught of criticism.”
After all, the family is made up of vergas.