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Spain and Latin America



     John Gehl calls our attention to this item from the forthcoming issue of The Economist:
     "A PATRON SAINT FOR THE INTERNET? The competition is on to choose a patron saint for the Internet, and several candidates are in the running. At the top of the list is St. Isidore, born in Seville in the sixth century, who compiled a 20-volume encyclopedia-like reference work called "The Etymologies" covering a wide range of religious and secular topics. Supporters have called this collection an early example of a database of categorized (if unreliable) information. Other contenders include San Pedro Regalado, a 15th-century Spanish priest who is said to have appeared two places at once, and was also a renowned navigator, and Santa Tecla, a Catalan religious figure said to be able to help people suffering from computer problems. ["tecla" is the Spanish word for key on a keyboard. I have never known a woman with the first name "Tecla"! Have you? RH]. The Vatican has not endorsed any of the choices, but most patron saints were informally adopted by the masses over the years, rather than formally appointed. And doing it informally would be more in keeping with the spirit of the Internet, anyway -- right?"
     Notice that all of the saints are Spanish, which brings us to the subject of religion, very appropriate during this Holy Week. I remember Spain when all was silent on Good Friday and on Easter Sunday the bells rang gloriously. When one entered a convent, one said "Ave Maria" and the door opened to the response "Conceived without sin." Spain has changed. As Azaņa notoriously said, Spain has ceased to be Catholic.
     Spanish TV has shown the three phases of Spanish Holy Week. In the ancient cities there are the traditional processions of bearers, usually hooded in different colors, carrying a Christ on the cross, usually a significant historical work of art. However, it seems to be largely a spectacle. A report from one city showed bearers carrying Christ on the cross; the commentator said it was a very happy affair, with the bearers giving presents to children. In Valencia, military cadets in uniform carried a Christ on a cross, their patron: "The Christ of a Good Death."
     Meanwhile, nine million Spaniards watched a championship soccer match between a Spanish team and the world champion, Manchester. The Spanish team won 3-2, and all Spain burst into happy applause, a new form of piety. All Spain, that is except for the thousands driving to coastal resorts, putting up with traffic jams stretching sometimes over ten miles, with many fatal accidents. These pilgrims to the seashore should have stayed home and read or gone to church.
     To see the old Spanish religious spirit one should go to Mexico, where simple Indians revere their saints and their priests. Contrary to what The Economist says, there is a definite procedure for beatification, and the Vatican has desanctified several saints whose existence is dubious, including Saint George. For this reason it refused to beatify Juan Diego, the peasant to whom the Virgin of Guadalupe allegedly appeared, since the story is apocryphal. The Indians, and Mexicans generally, must have been disappointed.
     Now the trust in priests has been shaken by a much publicized episode in Mexicali. A simple 14-year-old girl from a humble family was raped by a drug addict. Despite the appeals from the family, authorities refused to allow her to have an abortion, ceding to pressure from the Church. The family alleged that she had been shown a film depicting the horrors of abortion. A stern and hard-line priest was interviewed on TV. He said that abortion was not allowed under any circumstance, even if the baby was deformed. People are wondering about the sex lives of priests who have such rigid rules about sex by lay people. The peasants are now wondering too. Will Mexico go the way Spain has gone?

Ronald Hilton - 4/20/00


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