Aid from a Padre


4 June 1962. Navy chaplain Luis Padillo was walking around giving last rites to dying soldiers as sniper fire surrounded him. A wounded soldier pulled himself up by linging to the priest’s cassock, as bullets chewed up the concrete around them. Hector Rondón Lovera, who had to lie flat to avoid getting shot, later said that he was unsure how he managed to take this picture. [See all pictures he took that day]. Norman Rockwell eeriely used this photograph as a template for his Southern Justice painting, “Murder in Mississippi“.

It was taken in Puerto Cabello Naval Base, Venezuela, the city of 80,000 beside the nation’s largest naval base 75 miles west of the capital Caracas . Venezuela’s constitution was only a year old in 1962, but already there have been two attempts to overthrow the government. A third came in June 1962, when Puerto Cabello became the scene of one of the bitterest fighting in modern Venezuelan history, now known as the Porteñazo.. The bloody struggle between government forces and guerrilla rebels in the naval base who had the support of the residents of Puerto Cabello. Hector Rondon, who was in Caracas, travelled sixy miles to arrive just in time to see government tanks rolling into the town. Official casualty figures for the military were 47 dead, 89 wounded. But unofficial estimates put the toll, including civilians, at more than 300.

12 thoughts on “Aid from a Padre

    • He lived a long life after that, continued to help many during his 50+ years as a Catholic priest. He moved to the US. in 1979, died years latter and was set to rest in a in Sanford FL. We miss him everyday!

  1. I was born May 31, 1962 at puerto cabello just two days before this happened and only a few blocks from were the photo was taken. My family recall each moment of that event for me. Thanks for the info about Padre Padilla!

  2. I saw this photo at the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Tacoma (Washington) Art Museum, earlier this afternoon. It is a shattering photo, an incontrovertible statement that some of us are decent people, not because of our religion but by our compassion and our defiance in the face of the vicious lust for power that is becoming the unbridled norm.

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  4. Doesn’t this picture tell any one who has an ounce of humanity inside them to stop any president,government,dictators,terrorist,racism radical,malesha people in high places who have the audacity to tell us to go to war and see this god awful soul without his family or a loved one holding his hand while he draws his last breathe,how dare they and dam them to hell for this hellishly nightmare that they are safe and sound putting our beautiful children,threw their war,I’d bet if we told them fight you’re on fucking war and leave us majority at the peace we so desperately need Carole gerst 814 880 3065

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