The Ecco Homo of Borja achieves world renown


The three stages in the life of the Borja Ecco Homo

Which do you think is best?

The efforts of 81 year old Cecilia Gimenez in Borja, near Zaragoza in Aragon, to restore a 19th century of the crucified Christ doesn’t get the appreciation she expected as thousands flock to the church to see her handiwork.

I’m sure you must have seen something about this story of a restoration that didn’t quite go as well as some people would have wanted but thought it was worth while mentioning, nonetheless, as you might not have been kept up to date with developments.

Just in case the story is new to you it’s about the restoration of a 19th century mural in a church in the town of Borja, not too far from Zaragoza in Aragon.  The original was by a local artist and some of his family still live locally, which has made it a bit more personal than it could have been.

The amateur restorer of the painting was an 81 year old parishioner, Doña Cecilia Gimenez, who could never have thought that her efforts would bring her world-wide fame.  She took it upon herself to make the image more presentable for the annual romeria that was due to take place over the weekend of  25th and 26th August.  Perhaps she thought her work would be appreciated by the crowds but never in the way that it finally worked out.

Dona Cecilia Gimenez wondering what all the fuss was about

Dona Cecilia explaining to the world her restoration methodology.

In her own defence she has said that the local parish priest knew what she was doing, and as it’s a mural on a wall in the body of the church it’s difficult to understand how anyone locally didn’t know that the painting of the head and shoulders of Christ on the cross was not undergoing some sort of transformation.  It’s hardly the case that she snuck into the church in the dead of night to carry out her nefarious deed.

When her handiwork was revealed to the world on 22nd August some reacted with horror but as the word spread further afield Doña Ceci discovered that she had friends around the world.  Within hours, it seems, a petition was started calling for the restored picture to be preserved as a unique piece of art.

Unfortunately she didn’t see this support as something to be proud of and within a couple of days retreated from the world, her friends saying that she was suffering from a panic attack.

Since then things have moved on.

The news of the painting encouraged thousands to come to Borja and visitors were queuing up so that they could have their photo taken together with the new version of the painting, a painting which most people in the past might have noted rather than taken any real interest.  I’m not an art critic but I don’t see anything in the original that makes it stand out from the countless thousands of such paintings in churches throughout the world.  At least Ceci’s effort is different.

A close up of the restored Ecco Homo of Borja

The unique primitiveness of the restored Ecco Homo

Now that there have been so many visitors to the church the priest has said that he won’t be holding a mass until all the hullabaloo has blown over.

The family of the original painter are said to be upset; professional restorers are looking to see if the process can be reversed; there is talk of prosecuting Doña Cecilia.  Now this last is ludicrous.  To take this issue any further would only make the town of Borja, the Catholic Church and any prosecution service out to be the laughing stock of the year.

And if she were to be prosecuted then I only hope that the people of Borja who have made a small fortune out of all the extra visitors over the last couple of weeks pay her defence costs.

As should the patisseries around Spain that have started to produce cakes with the image in icing.

An example of one of the creations inspired by Ceci

A cake to commemorate Ceci´s work

I don’t know if the likes of a Spanish Max Clifford exists (if s/he doesn’t then I’m sure Max is on the case) but Ceci should get something out of this.

Who, for example, is the owner of the copyright on the unique image that she has produced?  Is its reproduction allowed without her permission?  If her handiwork has changed the image out of all recognition to the original can it be said that the dead painter owns the image?  If restorers try to take the image back to pre-Ceci days would they then not be guilty of an act of vandalism? Should she not be getting a little slice of the cake out of which others are profiting from her labour?

If nothing else this money could be used for her to take art lessons.

Update: 15th December 2012

Celia’s fame continues to spread throughout the world. One of her paintings is presently up for auction on Ebay, but for the life of me I can’t find it. I will continue to look and if successful will add an image of her oil painting Las Bodegas de Borja (Borja’s Wine Cellars) to this post. Click here to see a news agency report.

Also, a badge has been produced of the restored painting.

Enamel badge of the new Ecco Homo of Borja

Enamel badge of the new Ecco Homo of Borja

The story goes on and on and no doubt will still be with us next year, when tourism starts up in Borja.


Workers take over a palace in Andalusia

Moratalla Palace and SAT members

SAT members outside the Moratalla Palace.

First a raid on supermarkets, now workers take over a palace of a cousin of the king. It is occupied for a day by workers angry at the extremes within Andalusian society. Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo and his jornaleros (day workers) are rapidly becoming the bête noir of the Spanish establishment.

The momentum has been growing following the raid on 2 supermarkets in Andalusia by the Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajardores/as (SAT) on Monday 6th August.

Following the news locally it has been interesting to see how the government and the judiciary are pursuing the matter. The leader of this present wave of direct action is Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, an Izquierda Unida (United Left) senator as well as being the long-term mayor of the Andalusian town of Marinaleda. As a senator he is immune from prosecution and there have been calls for him to resign his position in Parliament to show that he is prepared to face the consequences of his actions. He has replied that he is prepared to give up his immunity but why should he give up his seat if he thinks that he is merely representing the people who voted him in in the first place.

Soledad Becerril, a member of the present Conservative ruling party (Partido Popular) was appointed as La Defensora del Pueblo (what would be called a Omsbudsman in the UK) earlier this year. She has come out arguing that the union members who raided the supermarkets did so because the only opposition they knew they would face at the check out desk were women.

Her argument, somewhat bizarrely, is that they did not choose a supermarket where there were men built like heavy weight boxers at the tills for fear of their own physical safety. She has still to indicate where these supermarkets can be found as she indicates, by omission, that this is the norm. Perhaps if you know of such an establishments you could let her know.

Sanchez Gordillo responded by branding her a fascist, as she was selective with the facts in making her accusations. So no love lost there, then.

There must have been images in the newspapers or on the tele making references to one of the women being quite distressed by the events that took her by surprise on that Monday, (I myself have not seen them). And it has to be accepted that it must have been a shock. However, the question to be asked is why, under those circumstances, did she try to stop them when they must have told her that their fight was not with her but with the wealthy in Spanish society and the inequalities they are perpetuating.

It has to be remembered that they were not furtive in their actions. They were not masked or using anything more offensive that a supermarket trolley (although that can be a lethal weapon in the hands of some people I’ve encountered in supermarkets). They even had their pictures taken and these have been widely broadcast. It was, therefore, obviously an open and clear political act.

There’s an open letter (by a Blogger called Pascual Serrano) to the woman who was depicted crying as events unfolded. It’s in Spanish but the gist of his case was why did she feel she had to protect the interests of her employers when they were paying her not much more than minimum wage levels and apart from being multimillionaires in their own right had a reputation for the poor treatment of their employees. Pascual’s argument came down to basically asking her which side was she on, that of the rich or of her own class?

Although the Defensora del Pueblo, Becarrill, maintains she is standing up for the rights of poor working class women it is worth noting that she herself is a Marquesa and stands for, and represented in her political past, the interests of her own class, one that would be challenged if such activity were to spread.

And spread it has.

On Tuesday 21st August a group of 200 people, including Sanchez Gordillo, invaded a palace of a cousin of the king in a place called Hornachuelos, again in Andalusia. This palace was not occupied and is in the process of being converted into a luxury hotel. One of their reasons for choosing this particular location was the fact that workers doing the renovation work have a dispute over payment for their work.

Again this action took place in the full light of day, no violence was involved, the people were happy to have themselves filmed and they even jumped into the swimming pool (the temperatures in Andalusia that day topping 40ºC). Can’t imagine what the water in the pool would have been like if it had not been treated for some time but at those temperatures I suppose they didn’t care.

So it appears the movement is growing. More people becoming confident and not caring about the consequences. And their position will only get stronger as more people are attracted to the cause. Poverty is not something that has just affected Andalusia in the last few years with the present economic crisis. It has always been a low wage economy and there have always been problems caused by the almost feudal manner in which many of the rural workers are treated. Social welfare services are minimal and people are literally without the wherewithal to find money to pay for their next meal.

Some of them, still a small number but seemingly increasing as time goes on, are starting to say that they are not prepared to accept this situation any longer.

SAT members in the gardens o f the Moratalla Palace

Jornaleros in the gardens of the Moratalla Palace

‘Liberating’ basic foodstuffs from supermarkets in Andulasia


The more rich the bigger the thief

El que es muy rico

An Andalusian trade union removes trollies of food from 2 supermarkets without paying in order to then provide the basic necessities of life to those unable to afford them. Bankers and others who steal from the public – those who have caused the present crisis – immune from prosecution call for the full force of the law to be used against these ´thieves´. 

Supermarkets are stuffed full of food (they even throw some of it away at the end of the day) but in Spain there is an increasing number of people who go hungry. What to do?

The decision of one trade union in Andalusia, the Sindicato Andaluz de Trajabadores/as (SAT), was to go into two supermarkets, fill a number of trolleys to the brim with basic and everyday necessities and then walk out without paying. This food was then distributed to people who had no money whatsoever to buy such necessities.

SAT members raiding supermarket

Can’t pay, won’t pay

This follows, in a number of ways, the scenario of the play ‘Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay’, written by the Italian satirist Dario Fo in the 1970s. Checking some information about this on the internet I see that there are a number of theatre companies around the UK who are, or have been, performing this play as it rings so many bells in the contemporary situation in many European countries.

The attack on the supermarkets happened on Monday 6th August and I don’t know what sort of coverage (if any) this has had in the British press, the Olympics being useful (yet again) to hide any bad news or anything that might be important.

Aznar and Gonzalez

Ex- Prime Ministers feed from the trough

SAT argued that in a society, and at a time, when money was given to bankers and their ilk by the wagon load there was ample justification for their actions.

Not surprisingly the owners of the two supermarkets, Mercadona and Carrefour, did not agree and have been calling for the full force of the law to be used against the individuals directly concerned as well as the trade union. In response the union has begun a campaign for a boycott of Mercadona, being the most vociferous in its call for the use of the courts to defend the sanctity of private property, until they withdraw their claims against the union. It seems the company has a history of illegal and unjustified sackings with accusations of discrimination being upheld in the courts. That would seem to be one of the reasons that that particular supermarket was chosen for the raid.

Mercadona has a history of being a bad employer

Mercadona – the perfect employer?

The last news I’ve seen is that those who’d been arrested have been released but the matter will not rest there. Not to prosecute could lead to copy cat activities throughout the region (if not further afield) but taking them to court could turn them into martyrs. The propaganda war is already on with local people being interviewed who say that such action goes too far but don’t offer any suggestions about what should be done instead. It’s early days yet but will try to keep an eye on developments.

One bit of information I received whilst discussing this matter is the fact that there is (or at least was) a law under Spanish jurisprudence that allows for the hungry to take food, as long as no violence is involved. The fact that the food taken in these supermarket raids could not be classified in any way as luxuries might well mean that this case could fall within the meaning of this law. Being, as we are in the UK, used to ancient laws being resurrected so that the state can exact its revenge against workers (such as the Shrewsbury Three) or brought out to pull the state out of the mess it has got itself into (such as the Pentonville Five in the Dockers’ Strike in 1972 with the mysterious one and only appearance of the Official Solicitor) it’s interesting that a law exists which can be used by workers. Not that we should put any faith in laws introduced by a capitalist state.

In Britain the tendency is to suffer in silence. When people do take the law into their own hands, as some did in different cities throughout the UK this time last year, they were condemned because they stole trainers and TVs and NOT foodstuffs. Would people’s attitudes have been different if all that was looted was the milk, eggs, potatoes, flour and the like used to produce a healthy and substantial meal? Now that would be a real danger to society.

Poster calling for a Boycot of Mercadona.

Boycott Mercadona!

The images in this post depict the general argument of the Union. Who are the real thieves? The ones who steal cooking oil to give to the hungry, or those who seek to increase their already vast fortunes, including ex-Prime Ministers, of both the conservative and so-called socialist breed.

Although in Spanish you can click here for the link for SAT for more information on how things are developing.

See also:

La lucha continua becomes La lluita continua

Workers take over a palace in Andulasia


Charity is the answer!