June 1, 2018

The Story Behind the Photograph of a Priest Holding a Wounded Soldier in the 1962 Venezuelan Insurrection

Father Luis Manuel Padilla holding a wounded government rifleman shot down in the streets of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, during a bloody revolt against President Betancourt in June 1962. More than 200 were killed before rebels were beaten. This photo won the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Héctor Rondón Lovera.

“Aid from the Padre,” 1962.

On June 4, 1962, Venezuelan photographer Héctor Rondón Lovera covered the El Porteñazo military rebellion in the city of Puerto Cabello. While he took many compelling scenes during the short-lived conflict, the most poignant of them all was his photograph above of Navy chaplain Luis Manuel Padilla clutching a wounded soldier who was also holding onto him as he tried to pull himself up. Despite the sniper fire flying around the area, Padillo was reportedly walking around and giving last rites to dying soldiers.
“I found myself in solid lead for forty-five minutes… I was flattened against the wall while bullets were flying, when the priest appeared. The truth is, I don’t know how I took those pictures, lying on the ground.” – Lovera later said that he was unsure how he managed to take the pictures.
From the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, Lovera traveled 60 miles (97 km) to Puerto Cabello and arrived just in time to witness the entrance of government tanks in the city. Lovera had to avoid the line of fire by lying flat, so how he managed to capture the poignant scene above is a story in itself. For his iconic snap entitled “Aid from a Padre,” Lovera earned the World Press Photo of the Year in 1962, and also inspired American painter Norman Rockwell for his 1965 “Southern Justice” painting.

Héctor Rondón Lovera was born on November 25, 1933, in Bruzual, Venezuela. He worked at a glass factory, joined the military and then worked as a taxi driver before in 1955 he became the official Los Togues regional photographer for the city and state officials. In 1959 he joined the Caracas Newspaper, La Republica, as its photographer. He was the second non-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for photography. Below are some more photographs were taken by Lovera on that day:






(Photos by Héctor Rondón Lovera/AP Photo, via Rare Historical Photos and Lomography)




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