Even closer to home

Ex-voto for the recovery of Pablo Rodrigues, November 5, 1940.

Ex-voto for the recovery of Pablo Rodrigues, November 5, 1940.

Some Christmas ago, perhaps a decade past, my dear wife Liz gave me this retablo (literally: board behind), also called an ex-voto (from a vow). Painted in 1940 to thank the Holy Trinity for the recovery of a man named Pablo, this piece of tin now occupies the section of our hallway just outside my daughter’s door.

As I walk by this image during my hurried day I often take a moment to wonder about Pablo and his family and how they fared in subsequent years. Admittedly, the artistry of  this ex-voto is not that of a master. You’d think for all the supplication that an ex-voto artist would be called to depict that they would have taken the time notice that the knees of a kneeling woman do not resemble a piece of macaroni. Nonetheless, I do find the shear ubiquity of these objects to be quite profound.

Looking at the image below I am struck by tragedy and pervasiveness of illness and injury. Seen in a group, these individual representations of grief and worry remind us just how fraught life can be without all the violence and injustice that we inflict on ourselves.

Retablos displayed in a room behind the altar in the Templo de la Purísima Limpia, also called La Parroquia, San Luis Potosí, Mexico. Photo by Magnus von Koeller.

Retablos displayed in a room behind the altar in the Templo de la Purísima Limpia, also called La Parroquia, San Luis Potosí, Mexico. Photo by Magnus von Koeller.

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