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The Indigenous Christ

The other day I posted a photo and a question about the Catholic Church’s seeming obsession with suffering. In a recent trip to Guanajuato, the home of Diego Rivera, I heard an interesting bit of history.  The religion of the pre-Hispanic Indigenous in the area was quite bloody in the sense that their depictions involved blood and pain and suffering. In fact, some of their practices involved self-mutilations.

The friars who had come to convert the Indians in the 1500s noticed this, or course, and figured that it would be helpful to their cause to relate the Christ figure to the pagan practices. That is, make Christ bloody and show his suffering in extremis.

Observe the blood and pain in the following three photos. In the first one, in which Christ is leaning forward, notice the deep and long tear in his arm. Further, the flesh has been torn from his side, exposing his ribs. To make it more terrible, the friars would insert human ribs and flesh in the opening on special occasions.  In the second photo, notice the blood streaming down the front of the statute and the pained look on Christ’s face.  In the third photo, the face of Christ has suffered a wound, and his back and legs are covered with blood.

I would guess this practice of bloodying and wounding Christ more than usual was fairly common in the Spanish New World.  Perhaps you could say, You take your converts as you find them.

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