Padre Nacho — A powerful and controversial Nogales priest is remembered by a student
By George Thomson on June 17, 2010
NOGALES, Ariz. — I can’t imagine a more horrible way for a man to be killed. “¡Le cortaron los huevos!” They cut off his balls, probably before they killed him. What was the message? It’s clear now with the abusive priest stories all over world news.
Only extreme hate and abuse would be sufficient to motivate that violence in 1985 in Nogales, Sonora.
Still, Padre Nacho gave much to our border city. His work in education is one example. Nothing was proved about the motive for his murder or who did it, but the way he was killed says something about his life.
Padre Nacho was a long-time icon in Nogales, Sonora. So much that it was sacrilege to say anything bad about him while he was alive and even more so after his assignation. The crime was buried by the church, so we didn’t talk about him after his murder either. We were taught to revere the great work of Padre Nacho, especially his work educating the young people of Nogales. The first two private Catholic schools in Nogales were founded by him.
Yet, his arrogance and lack of humility did not pass unnoticed. Apart from these social gains and behind the doors of the vestry a fateful history was written of abuse, and untold secrets, by the unfathomable darkness of his nature.
From time inmemorable the Church made use and abuse of power over its parishioners. Only today has the average citizen begun to speak out against this y por primera vez se vislumbra justicia. Delatar los hechos creo que es solo parte de la solución, como resolver el problema que lo inicia es en realidad lo que debiese concernir a la iglesia, si conservar su estatus-quo es lo que quisieran.
The facts of Padre Nacho’s life reveal only part of the problem, for the Church, maintaining the status-quo by not talking about the padre’s death was the solution.
One day Padre Nacho came to my school in his purple robes and with his entourage in-line. The nuns at my school lined us up to greet him and to kiss his ring. The 50 kids in line in front of me kissed it. When it was my turn to be in front of the Padre, instead I shook his hand. Hey, I wasn’t going to kiss a ring that had 100 lips on it! I have a germ phobia and didn’t like his church pomp anyway.
The nuns approached me immediately and asked, “¿No respetas al señor?” they asked, “¿No crees en él?” Don’t you respect or revere him? No, I don’t, I thought but I was too afraid to say the truth.
This man who preached humility, chastity and poverty, strutted through the rows of boys and girls with clothes engalardonado wearing robes of silk and gold. Sitting as “Rex” in his padded chair waiting for each of us to “kiss his blessed hand.”
La gente del pueblo lo veneraba y le temia, si, le temian. Era duro para juzgar y condenar en público a cualquiera que de acuerdo a sus principios ofendía a Dios. La ofensa podía ser algo tan trivial como hablar en voz baja en la iglesia, o vestirse inadecuádamente ante el Santísimo, como llevar manga corta, o ropa apretada, por supuesto, las mujeres eran sus blancos preferidos en estas abruptas interrupciones a gritos dentro de la Iglesia.
He preached every Sunday about what bad Catholics we were. He was the closest thing to God we knew. The ordinary people revered him and yes, they feared him. Often he could judge and condemn anyone in public according to the principles that offended God. The offense could be something as trivial as talking quietly in the church, or dressed inappropriately before the Blessed Sacrament, like wearing tight or loose clothing. Of course, women were his favorite targets.
Llegó a interrumpir bodas a gritos porque el vestido de la novia, o las chalinas de las damas, o los pajecitos con flores. Novias llorando, quinceañeras despojadas de su ceremonia… y me preguntaba, ¿es éste un hombre de bien? ¿Dónde está su misericordia, donde está su amor por el prójimo? ¿Dónde? ¿Quién es éste hombre?
El Mono Bichi
Then there was the Mono Bichi campaign. The Mono Bichi is a huge statue of a Mexican killing a a bat with his trident.
The bat represents the death of ignorance, something Padre Nacho cared about. Yet, Padre Nacho had a problem with the Mono Bichi because, the statue is completely naked.
Because the sight of a naked man violated family values, he had a statue sized diaper placed over the Mono Bichi’s privates. Well, that lasted for a few months; nobody changed his diaper and the elements took it off. Today, the Mono Bichi stands proud and naked.
The Church’s view of Padre Nacho was as a saint. His work in Nogales, Sonora did much for the education of young people. The Church wrote in a book about Padre Nacho, “Su muerte violenta dejó consternado al Estado de Sonora, el Padre Nacho, auténtico apóstol de Cristo, perdura en el tiempo a través del ejemplo de la vida en sus obras.” (His violent death dismayed that the State of Sonora, Padre Nacho, a true apostle of Christ, lasts over time through the example of life in their works.) (dossierpolitico.com)
Today Padre Nacho is remembered as an educator and each year the Básquetbol Copa Padre Nacho tournament brings together the best young basketball players in the country. A Church news letter reported, “At the opening of the 2010 tournament, Engineer Fernanda Montoya and Mr. Jorge Noriega opened with a “moving ceremony to honor Padre Nacho was the first step to three full day’s action. Before anything happens he paid a tribute to who gives name to this Cup to the Father dear Nacho, the video tribute was the most important moments in the priest’s life until his tragic death, concluding with ‘Thank you for your legacy.’”
It’s said you die as you live
Se dice que se muere como se vive. Aunque no me parece del todo aplicable, en el caso del Padre Nacho esta frase se volvió relevante —murió como vivió. Su crueldad para con los demás, sus incontables secretos, sus inconfesables pecados, se lo llevaron.
Justicia pudieran decir algunos, crimen dirán otros. Nunca se descubrió quién lo mato ni cuál fue el móvil. No hubo robo y no se llevaron su anillo de oro tantas veces besado, pero sí sus testículos además de dejar innegables señas de tortura.
His cruelty towards others, countless secrets, shameful sins, took him away.
Justice, could say some, others will say crime. It was never clarified neither who killed him nor what was the motive. There was no stealing, they didn’t even take the-thousands-times-kissed golden ring, but they did take his testicles and left undeniable signs of torture.
We are left wondering about the contradiction; how an important religious person who did so much to help the young people of Nogales with his contributions to education, his direction to the faithful could be assassinated in such a horrible way? The act of Padre Nacho’s murder brings current events of the world to our border town.
Author’s note: The facts of this story are true. Padre Nacho was a well know leader of the Catholic Church in Nogales, Sonora for years. He was murdered in 1985, as described, and reported in dossierpolitico.com.
His personality is accurately described based on several sources. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own.