Spain: thousands demand removal of photo offensive to Catholics

Called 'Inferno', the offending photo depicts a nude man covering his privates with an image of Jesus Christ.

More than 20,000 people have signed on to an internet petition demanding that the mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella, should immediately remove an offensive photograph now on display at the Teatro Español in the Spanish capital. The photograph in question is an image of nude male model who cover his genitals with a print of a famous painting of Jesus Christ by Diego Velázquez.  The photograph is called “Inferno,” something which detractors says is a further insult and incitement to Catholics in Madrid. The internet petition campaign is led by and, both of which were especially vocal in opposition to abortion and contraceptive initiatives on the part of former Socialist president José Rodríguez Zapatero. However, Botella belongs to the People’s Party of Spain, which is of a more libertarian bent and generally more friendly to Spain’s Catholics and church hierarchy. The People's Party is now in the majority in Spain's parliament, while party member Mariano Rajoy Brey is now President.

In 2011, the two largely Catholic pressure groups were successful in getting the same image removed at last year’s Theatre Festival in Mérida. Also, the director of that festival – actress Blanca Portillo - was removed as a result.  In its most recent appearance, the offending photo is exhibited at a theatre that is maintained by the government of Madrid. Olga Cuquerella, speaking for MásLibres said of Botella, “we expect that the mayor will be receptive to this citizens’ petition, as was José Antonio Monago, as soon as he knew of the exhibit at the Theatre Festival in Mérida last year.” At that time, Monago had been recently elected president of Extremadura, one of Spain’s western provinces.  Critics of HazteOir and MásLibres say that their campaigns amount to censorship.

The petition makes clear the views of the signatories that their taxes should not be spent on this type of exhibit, demanding that the photo should be removed immediately “for offending the religious sentiments and assailing Christians’ right to have their symbols respected.”

In less than a year, Más Libres has had several successes, including the removal of an ad campaign launched by MediaMarkt, a show at the Barceló resort hotel in the Canary Islands, as well as another campaign launched during Holy Week that was deemed sacriligeous. According to the innovators in the latter campaign, the purpose was to “chastise Catholic conscience,” but resulted in garnering over 100,000 signatures demanding its removal from public spaces in Madrid.

Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.


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