full mural photo taken by journalist José Rafael Sosa]
A mural painted twelve years ago inside a church located in the Dominican Republic town of Jarabacoa has drawn national attention this week after a newspaper reported that the resident priest at Our Lady of Carmen Church had requested official permission to tear it down... and revealed the reason for the request.
At issue, according to the papers submitted by Reverend Johnny Durán, is that the mural is just too gay. Rev. Durán claims that the mural is a "monstrosity" and that parents are keeping children away from church service because the images are too disturbing.
That's not the reception that mural creator Roberto Flores got when he approached the church in 1998 with a proposal to donate his artistic talents to the church. At the time, the renown Dominican artist was welcomed with open arms. Two years later he was recognized for his work at a public ceremony led by the local archbishop. And, with such accolades, the Jarabacoa town council decided to officially designate the artwork as a symbol of cultural heritage in order to protect it.
In other words, Rev. Durán could have gone ahead and destroyed the mural if he wanted if it wasn't for the fact that it had been placed on an official cultural patrimony list a few years back. Hence, his petition for the council to strip the artwork from its special protection status and to allow him to destroy it.
In a follow up article published today, there are disturbing indications that the current town council might be receptive to his homophobic request. According to the article, town council member Marciela Genao recognized the artwork had a "great artistic value" but said that it was housed in an inappropriate place which "distracted and perturbed parishoners" and that the images of angels in the mural were placed in "very strange postures".
For his part, the artist is also speaking up. Mr. Flores expressed concern that the town council was considering lifting the protected cultural heritage status from a mural that had taken him five months to complete.
"I am an artist who is a believer, a Catholic, and what I did was create a mural art form which invites you to lift your soul to the sublime", he said.
The mural, he said, did not reflect sexual deviance nor the work of the Devil, as Rev. Durán and his followers have claimed, but was born out of his Christian faith and reflected no such thing. He is pleading for his work to be saved from being destroyed.
El Nacional, the daily Dominican newspaper reporting on the story, says that they have made repeated attempts to contact Rev. Durán for his comments but he has yet to respond.
As for the mural, I cropped the section that might have been found to be gayish and there's actually not much gay-gay to it. Jeez! If Rev. Durán sees obscenity in this, I wonder what else he deems devilish and censure-worthy!
Thankfully a group of local artists and poets have organized to fight back against zealous religious bigotry and censorship.
Poet Taty Hernández Durán is leading a community coalition to amass signatures in opposition to stripping the mural the protective cultural heritage status. She has created a website to call attention to the impending town council vote.
José Rafael Sosa, who has been reporting on the issue for El Nacional and allowed me to use his image, is also following up on every development on his personal blog.
A vote might come tomorrow Friday or Monday. I'll keep you updated.
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