When Democratic ruler Rómulo Betancourt came into power for the second time in Venezuela, the country’s naval forces went into rebellion. The year was 1962, and this wasn’t the first military-led rebellion attempting to overthrow the government as just a month earlier, “El Carupanazo” saw 56 people dead and the country in turmoil. Although the government successfully forced the rebels into surrender, a minority were still distrusting of their leader.
By June 2nd, 1962, the second rebellion, El Porteñazo, had started. Rebels took refuge in the historical Solano Castle and by the very next day, more than 400 people were dead with a further 700 injured. In such a short space of time, this seemingly pointless war had wiped out whole families and ruined the lives of so many people. Amidst the chaos, navy chaplain Luis Padilla performed his duty to the letter. Instead of cowering at Solano Castle, he walked onto the battle-torn streets of Puerto Cabello and blessed the dying, reading the Catholic soldiers their last rites so they could die in peace.
At first, bullets flew past Luis’ head, missing him by inches, but he used his status as a chaplain to his advantage. Men on both sides were Catholic, and in 1960s Venezuela, piety would have been the norm. Luis noticed that his presence on the battlefield meant that the shooting stopped momentarily, giving the mortally wounded soldiers at least a small bit of peace before death. No soldier was exempt from the chaplain’s compassion, as both Rebels and government soldiers were blessed.
The featured photograph, an image that radiates true misery and fear, was taken by Héctor Rondón Lovera and won a Pulitzer prize in 1963. ‘Aid from the Padre’ remains a stark reminder of the horrors of war and the heroic acts it can evoke.