Jesuits and Catholics have their day
So I do as the Arequipeños do.
If it’s not obvious yet, let me clear something up: I am not religious. I am irreligious. I am, in fact, irreverently blasphemous.
Despite not being part of God’s team — which really only wants me on the roster as a compliant and powerless breeding machine — for the most part, I like religious art. The Church and the faithful who wished to buy their way into heaven (or politics), were fabulously generous supporters of artists, if not unfettered artistic expression. Props deserved and props given to the people and institutions that pay for art.
Yet I do not much care for the Spanish Catholic artistic style, particularly when it wanders over into Baroque and Rococo much like stoner gravitate to laser light shows. The results are overly ornate, garishly gilded, and more about narcissism pomp than faithful circumstance. Where some see shiny splendor, I see splashy squalor.
What does work aesthetically for me is the outside of Arequipa’s churches, including the Basílica Catedral, the Iglesia de La Compañía (Jesuit church), and the Iglesia de San Miguel Arcángel in the Cayma district.
In the deeply carved stonework facades of its churches — even if somewhat marred by soot and grime — Arequipa earns its nickname, La Ciudad Blanca or The White City.
The divine is here, though not in the garishly gilded altars or in the idols rolling eyes heavenward.
The people attending Arequipa’s churches are, at turns, full of joy or caught up in mourning, seeking salvation for newly earned sins or mired in their weekly force of habit.
My belief is not shared by the worshipers — I believe divinity comes not from God, but from us. Divinity can be found right here on earth, in people and especially in their community ties. We don’t have a relationship to the divine. We are the divine.
Let the gods worship humankind, I say.