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The ugly virgin

La madonna brutta (The Ugly Virgin) is part of the cycle of stories created by the Italian writer Giovannino Guareschi through his character Don Camilo, a village priest who antagonizes the communist mayor Peppone Bottazzi, in post-war Italy. Despite the incessant struggle among themselves in the face of the various conflicts they face, they barely join forces and their mutual goodwill emerges. Human feelings prevail over any banal dispute.

Inside the provincial temple, the figure of a two-meter-high polychrome sculpture of not so good workmanship stood out. Don Camilo did not want her because he was very ugly and offensive to the Virgin. A thorn in his heart went through him every time he heard people nickname her that, although without disrespectful intention. He tried to get rid of it, but the population rebuked him that he could not do so because of its historical value as it was very old. So he thought well of sabotaging it, so that, during the trip in a processional truck, it would break. So it was. The dull virgin crumbled, revealing another splendid silver one. Next, what the Christ of the main altar told him while he was begging for his mediation to free himself from the image thundered in the clergyman's head: “True beauty is what the eyes cannot see because it is inside and defies the ravages of the time and will not become, like the other, an earth within the earth.” He collected the fragments and repaired it.

This story reveals that every cultural value has a spiritual element, since, in a material good, in addition to containing an architectural, artistic, historical interest or all of them, it includes the emotional interest that the community imprints on it. When the Cultural Heritage Institute began the census of cultural heritage in 2004, it broke paradigms regarding the estimation of the cultural manifestations typical of the Venezuelan people and that have significance for them in all their pluricultural and multiethnic dimension. A verification carried out based on the judgment that the people themselves made of them, concretized in separate catalogs and which earned recognition from UNESCO. The culmination of this story is that, despite the ugliness of the effigy, the people continued to appreciate their “ugly virgin.”

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