Imagine my surprise 49 years later

My wise old grandmother

I came to San Diego in April 1993 via a circuitous route that started in College Station, Texas, took me north to Fargo, North Dakota, west to Seattle, Washington, and then south to San Diego. I wasn’t really looking for a place to live. Rather, I was looking for a place to kill myself. All because of my sexual orientation and how being gay was perceived in Texas and in the Mormon and Catholic religions in which I had been raised.

I don’t know into which religion I was born, but my mom’s side of the family were Mormons and dad’s side were Catholics. For many years I wondered how they ever got together. Then I put two and two together and got four, realizing that my oldest brother was born a couple months shy of nine months after my parents had married. The old Texas-style shotgun wedding….

When my dad killed himself in 1961, my mom moved us to Brigham City, Utah, to be closer to her side of the family. Four years later, and I was back in Kingsville, Texas, living with my wise old grandmother. She had adopted me out of the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital in Ogden, Utah, where I had been placed because I was such a juvenile delinquent.

St Gertrude Catholic Church in Kingsville TexasShortly after being adopted, I was baptized and confirmed in St. Gertrude Catholic Church (picture ►). After my confirmation in 1966, my wise old grandmother bought me a remembrance gift from the church gift store. It was a picture of the face of Jesus Christ on cloth. I now know that my picture was of a monotype on cloth called “The Peace of the Resurrection” and was done in 1955 (my birth year!) by Raul Anguiano, a famous Mexican artist.

Inquiring minds might want to know how I know that. Well, a couple of weeks ago I was at the Pala Indian Reservation teaching chess to students at their elementary school, the Vivian Banks Charter School. The school happens to be located in the historic Mission San Antonio de Pala, a Catholic mission founded in 1816.

Mission San Antonio de Pala

Vivian Banks Charter School in Pala, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Since I was unfamiliar with the territory, I got there very early. My intent, though, was actually to explore the historic mission grounds, take pictures, and visit the museum.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into one of the museum rooms and found my picture of Jesus Christ hanging on the wall. Not just any picture, though. It was the original picture on cloth! Looked like this:

The Peace of the Resurrection by Raul Anguiano at the Mission San Antonio de Pala in Pala, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The paper attached to the frame informs us that it is the

“Original monotype by Anguiano,
a famous Mexican artist, in 1955.”

It is titled “The Peace of the Resurrection”

José Raúl Anguiano Valadez (February 26, 1915 – January 13, 2006) was part of the “second generation” of Mexican muralists continuing in the tradition of Diego Rivera and José Orozco, two names with which I am familiar. Anguiano was born during the height of the Mexican Revolution, which inspired a lot of his murals and paintings.

I always liked that picture because even though the face’s eyelids are closed, there appear to be eyeballs staring out at you from behind the eyelids, and they seem to follow you around the room as you move about.

I took my picture with me when I went off to college at Texas A&M University. It got left behind in Texas in April 1993 and I never recovered it after deciding to spend my life in San Diego.

It was pretty neat to find the original so close to where I live now but 49 years later.

The Peace of the Resurrection by Raul Anguiano at the Mission San Antonio de Pala in Pala, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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29 thoughts on “Imagine my surprise 49 years later

  1. colltales

    Very interesting recollection, Russel. Note, also, that the painter was born almost on you own birthday. I think that slowly you’re building a thrilling narrative about your upbringing and coming to age. It’s almost as if every time you write a little bit more about what happened to you, you also understand it all little bit better. Add some blood to it and what you’ll have will be a truthful and unusual story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  2. operasmorg

    Wow… a mixed Mormon – Catholic household. You’re lucky to survive! 🙂 It’s so cool how you ran into the original Jesus painted clothe at Pala Mission, too. I dropped by there last spring, but got there too early and everything was closed (couldn’t wait around, tho. Forecast high was in the 90’s and I wanted to make my way across Rainbow Height and Fallbrook from there back to the coast before it got too warm).

    Used to visit that mission fairly often (once or twice a month) when I went to the golf college in Murrieta Hot Springs in the early 90s… That was before Pala, Pauma and Pechanga casinos were open, of course, and Pala-Temecula Rd was a wonderful cycling treat. Nowadays that road is just about un-bikeable. 😦

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      1. operasmorg

        Nice! It’s more fun hanging out in RSF anyhow. 🙂

        I forgot to add… I was so short on caffeine when I first looked at the photo that I thought that was Jesus in Goth make up. Then I realized how absurd that would be, so I shook sleep off my head and had another look. 😀

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  3. frederick anderson

    There is such a serenity in that picture, you can’t help wanting to believe that is how he looked in life. I can’t help imagining the stresses in your father’s life that must have led to his suicide – such a sin to a Catholic in those days – and how close you came to ending your own life. I’m so glad you did not, and so glad the future was kinder to you than you expected. Thank you for this other chapter in your story.

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      For 40 years I had been told that my dad had died in Korea, part of the Air Force there. Instead, just a couple of years ago, I found his death certificate online stating the cause of death as a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Unbelievable that people can lie about things for 40 years, or longer even.

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      1. frederick anderson

        I guess it was down to the Catholic thing, and the prejudices that surrounded such things in those days. My mother hid a lot of stuff about my father from me, too. I’m only just beginning to scratch the surface now – she carried those secrets with her to her grave.

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  4. Karen B

    Untangling the threads of our past and making sense of them is a life times work. Finding the picture again and its source must have brought back a lot of memories and feelings. It is amazing what we can come through isn’t it? Your Grandmother threw you a lifeline, that’s for sure. You deserve sunshine; lots of it.

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