Do you still paint, Cecilia? no not now. I am 91 years old, huh! Many years have passed…
Cecilia Jimenez (Porja, January 23, 1931) An old lady. It was already ten years ago, when his name spread around the world at the mercy of an incomplete “arrangement” made “with a great deal of love” and in his own name: Ace Homo borgia. He hasn’t given interviews in a long time. He appears at the entrance to the public housing in the town where he lives with his son. White hair and blue jacket. He is in a wheelchair and has lost some things: “hearing, eyes…”. Most of them are “stuff of the times”. He also lost memory. Although this is fickle and cute, sometimes it’s a tough time: memes, public lynchings, media pressure.
It’s hot in Borja. In July this year, the thermometer gives no respite, not even on the slopes of Moncayo. There is an orange alert for the danger of wildfires. Ten summers ago, days after Cecilia’s painting appeared, a 4,000-hectare fire ignited at the edge of the natural park. He then kept the entire area on edge when he threatened the small municipality of Talamantes, which was surrounded by flames.
What do you like to draw?
I liked the doors and the city streets very much.
You must have traveled several kilometers here…
Then my husband was there and he would take me: “Let’s go to a town like this where there are some very nice streets.” And I’ve enjoyed painting and doing my own exhibitions and selling some paintings, yes.
On those streets, he says, he began to paint and remembered nothing. She knew about her love for drawing since she was a little girl, when she started her drawing class at school “Draw, Draw, Draw”. Then he paused for three seconds and jumped seventy: “Well, what happened to di … poor Ecce Homo happened.” He smiles and adds, “Oh my God!”
Hence from the surrounding cities, which city would you recommend visiting?
Well they are all very good… I like it… I don’t know how to explain it…
I had to be in Talamantes ten years ago.
Oh! Talamantes, yes.
Cecilia painted Talamantes years before that fire, but today she finds it hard to remember. In his head experiences come and go. There hasn’t been a question about Ecce Homo in the conversation yet, but his head repeatedly returns to that pillar from the Holy of Mercy Church. It is there that the Valencian painter Elias García (Requena, 1858 – Utiel, 1934) dedicated around 1930 “Two Hours of Consecration to the Virgin of Mercy”. An oil painting of 66 x 40 cm that is not indexed and could be a copy of the work of Italian painter Guido Reni.
This was not the first time Cecilia revised the painting. That year was different.
How do you remember that about Ecce Homo, Cecilia?
With love, because I did it with love.
The thing is that Cecilia could not explain to her: “Oh my God! Without a face, everything is spoiled … But how can they have such?”. Dedicated and willing, to this burgana–“too burgana”–the sanctuary chapel was almost like her home. There he looked and looked at that Christ. His image vanished without anyone doing anything to stop it. “Poor,” he regrets. Partly it was the result of dampness. Partially because it was oiled directly on the plaster, without curing.
He left the Karika for the last minute: he didn’t want to do any Chanderio. But he had to go on a trip, not thinking that he would never be able to finish an “arrangement” that would become a business.
How does the family of Elias Garcia, the original painter, see the Ecce Homo theme ten years later?
Well, he still sees it just as bad as day one.
Teresa Garcia, granddaughter of the original painter, had gone to the Consistory the previous year to warn Christ of great harm. “They said they would take it back, but they did nothing,” he said with a sigh. That’s why he had a fit of laughter the first time he saw the new painting. Until he found out it was no joke.
Five kilometers from Borja, under the scorching afternoon sun, there is no way to get lost on the way to Santuario de Misericordia. This small village is built around a church and a building dating back to 1578 and is located on La Muela Alta Hill. In Spain’s oldest hotel establishment, bourgeoisie, artists or writers sought the tranquility and many fountains. The entire complex belongs to the Sancti Spiritus Charitable and Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mercy in the city of Borja, which is sponsored by the Municipal Foundation.
like every summer
The granddaughter arrived in Borja a few days ago. Like every summer, as did his grandfather. He remembers on the phone that the family’s only goal, once knowing that it was impossible to restore the original painting, was to honor the figure of the teacher at the Provincial School of Fine Arts in Zaragoza. A “very worthy” painter and a “great portrait painter”. In the sanctuary there is his space and there is a copy of the original work. The Casa de Aguilar gate portends a short break from the stifling heat. On the wall of the upper floor of this 16th-century building is the only surviving work of Elias García in Borja, a representative of Aragonese Renaissance art. Fortunately, a few days before the repainting was revealed, the family donated a painting by the artist to the Centro de Estudios Borjanos, guarantor of the region’s cultural heritage.
The image of Virgen de los Dolores heads towards the upper left corner. Just like the Ecce Homo of the Sanctuary, of which there is also a copy on the wall, before repainting. The first article mentioning “The Intervention” was published there. It was on August 7, 2012. It was titled Untold Event. It included the first Ecce Homo posted photo of Cecilia, dated July 25, 2012. It will be ten years later tomorrow.
The Center then intends to publish an inventory of the religious artistic heritage of the region. The task that has not been resumed. Today, they prefer to stay outside. It is easier to count the countries from which they did not receive visits to their website than to list the rest. Similar to what happens at the box office in Sanctuary.
Back on the streets of Borja, just before mid-morning Carlos was squeezing a sandwich from squid rings at Buen Humor Bar. This neighbor recounts how in the early days of a storm he came to the Misericordia Reserve for a drink with a friend without really knowing what was happening.
Yes, I even took a picture of myself.
no. With Aida Nizar.
It was August 21 when journalist Elena Pérez published “The Restoration” in Heraldo de Aragon and lit the fuse. A day later, there were already television crews in the Plaza del Santuario, which is also international. Cecilia explained. Soon the situation was already unlikely. Hundreds of visitors. Cecilia has become one of the most wanted people, also on the network. It ended with an anxiety attack.
Whether they restore or not. Whether it is a play or not. Who has the copyright? whether it should be removed or not. All parties hired lawyers, and in the end, the families ended up apologizing. The plot included a character Santero (a character who disappeared), a priest accused of an alleged economic crime shortly thereafter, and a scenario in which everyone knows each other, but no one seems to know anything.
On the street there is still division.
Yes, there are people who support it and people who don’t, but it’s not a question of taking blows either.
Eduardo Arella has been the mayor of Borja since 2015. He opened Casa de las Conchas to demonstrate the rich heritage of the municipality. He asserts that Ecce Homo has put it “on the world tourism map”. Merchi, one of the guides, says the refuge now receives about 11,000 visitors each year. The goal is to go down to the municipality, where there are at least four museums. They are 5000 people.
Ecce Homo generated 45,000 euros last year and the year before, 20,000 for the pandemic. These sums “total about 300,000 euros in 10 years,” Ariella explains. Income comes from the ticket – now charged at €3 – from image rights to documentaries, interviews or live shows and from merchandising.
Funds are managed by the Foundation and invested in campus maintenance, a guides’ salary (two jobs created by Al Dahra) and in scholarships for the Sancti Spiritus Hospital Residence. Now they are helping two elderly people with few resources.
Cecilia has given up half of her interest in intellectual property. It has 49% of selling mugs, keychains or wine bottles, and photo rights. He also gives that part to the institution that resided in his place of residence until he obtained a place in the public center.
These are figures a far cry from the municipality’s main source of income: wind energy contributes €1.5 million annually (1.5 at current prices).
Are you back on the sanctuary, Cecilia?
Yes, I bought a piezo. But you only go to visit – says Marisa, her niece -. This is it. We go there, have a coffee and my son is happy. Me too.
He runs a bar
For Cecilia, the shrine is special. There he spent the summer with his grandmother and there he married. The way he knows well. He’s done this countless times. Once also her husband died. At the age of 60, he went back to take driving lessons and bought a pickup truck to take to his son, Jose Antonio. “Water,” as he calls it. Cecilia’s eldest son suffers from cerebral palsy. He inherited his mother’s love for this oasis. His other son, Jesúsin, died at the age of twenty, after being diagnosed with progressive degenerative muscular dystrophy.
Cecilia was not a restaurateur, but she ran a bar with her husband: the Moka Pub. She had to leave him to take care of her “children”. She says she’s already used to being called “Cecilia, one of the Ecce Homo”. He gave some New Year’s Eve chimes on national television and Alejandro Amienbar sat on his sofa. In September, Borja prepares to honor him. “You have to value yourself a little,” he says. In the center of her living room, her family has an easel with the last painting she worked on.
And how would you like people to remember you, Cecilia?
with my love.