October 2010: commissioned and published by Notre Dame University Magazine a series of four black and white linoleum cuts to illustrate Father Joe Corpora‘s journal. The author reports from a remote and poor small village in Mexico. Side by side with my linoleum cuts I am presenting some excepts, words that very likely will never have a chance to be printed in the Travel section of the New York Times.

father Joe and the poor

” … has more horses than cars. In fact, I was awakened today by the sound of horses trotting down the street. I kept waiting for the family to give me a key, until I realized no one locks their doors in this town. In fact, most doors don’t have locks. The pump where water comes to this town is broken and there is no money to fix it. As I listened to child after child, I kept thinking of how unfair life Is.  I hadn’t really thought about how much the poor don’t have. I heard confessions for about 75 minutes. Same sins, different faces. When nations are big and strong they fight other nations. When cities are big and strong, they fight other cities. When a town is too small to fight anyone else, they fight internally.

In the three days of confessions, I learned more about this town and its internal conflicts than I ever would have imagined. I know who is mad at whom, who stole whose sugarcane properties, who is not talking to whom. There is a saying in Spanish, “Pueblo chico, incendio grande” – “In small villages, there are big fires.” A tremendous amount of alcohol is consumed in this town. So many women are trapped in bad situations. Unlike any big city, where the priest might suggest that the woman get out of the situation or ask her husband to leave, it is nearly impossible for the priest to suggest this in a town of 1,000 people where everyone knows one another and when the entire town is three blocks east-west and three blocks northsouth.Very sad.

own no acres

Even in a small town like this, social classes are obvious . Some people own acres and acres and acres of sugarcane; others own no acres and work for the owners.You look at the hands and feet of the people here and you know they have worked hard. Until about 10 years ago, most of the homes had tin or even cardboard roofs. There was no running water. People walked to the creek and carried water back. The poor have a tough life. It made me sad that they will be poor all their life long.

During my walk I saw many trucks taking men to work. All the males in the town work in the sugarcane. So all the men in those trucks carry machetes. It looks scary at first. Easter lilies and another flower that looks like the Easter lily, called Alcatraz, grow everywhere. People bring the flowers, and the common vase is a No. 10 can of La Costeña jalapeno peppers. People set up outdoor altars, and the crowd stops at each altar for one of the stations.There is a reflection and a prayer. Easter Sunday in many ways, is just another day for the poor. There are no holidays or breaks. I heard the bus start up at 3 a.m. outside of my room like every other day, taking about 40 workers to the sugarcane. All the little stores are open on Easter. I think that this is how it is for the poor.”

Father Joe Corpora, CSC, director of the Catholic School Advantage: The Campaign to Improve Educational Opportunities for Latino children, headquartered at Notre Dame. He is a priest in residence at Dillon Hall.

Photoghaphes of the linoleum engravings and printing process.


knife cuted lines into the linoleum blocks set the structure of the visual while patterns and texture define the energy and the mood .

paper and block : the image revealed on paper at the printing press…not the printing inkjet!

the inking roller allows an even coating of black printers ink on to  the relief surface of the  carved linoleum block.

Texts excerpts are a copyright of  Father Joe Corpora and Notre Dame Magazine  2010.

Linoleum cuts & photographs copyright Raymond Verdaguer, 2010.

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