Meet the bike riding, beer drinking rock and roll priest
In the lawless, dangerous Mexican barrios, Father Gofo fits right in.
When I first heard of Adolfo Huerta, or Father Gofo as everybody calls him, I thought it was a joke. I thought he just liked to drive a motorcycle and to wear his hear long and that he wasn’t even a priest, just a guy who liked to pretend to be one.
He was packing his things the day I met him as he was moving to another parish. They were sending him off to a neighborhood with social problems, or a “hot” area as it’s generally called. I looked around Adolfo’s room while chatting with him – it looked more like the room of a teenager. I saw heavy metal and alternative rock CDs, books piled high on different topics, all had his nickname “Gofo” written on them. A poster of Che Guevara adorned the wall, another of the latest Batman movie and a double-spread picture of a lovely young lady showing her assets “au naturel”.
Adolfo discovered God and the priesthood while studying philosophy at the Pontifical University of Mexico City, and working with HIV-positive patients and sex workers as an activist for social causes. But he seems to break the mold of a Catholic priest, he likes rock music, dyes the ends of his hair red, dresses in black, and likes to ride his motorcycle. He is a member of a motorcycle club called the “Black Wings”, he goes to bars, drinks beer, smokes, swears and tells jokes while officiating mass. He likes pictures of naked women. Although his female friends complain about the posters, he says he is an admirer of the female body, its beauty and its ability to give birth. No filthy or profane thoughts behind it, he said, in order to live a chaste life.
One night we went to a bar called “The confessionary” blasting music from Iron Maiden and the number 666 painted on the wall, illuminated with red lights. Father Gofo greeted the owner of the place and waited outside for some friends and members of the “Black Wings” motorcycle club. Inside, he and his friends had a couple of beers, they chatted and sang to Pantera and Metallica songs. He left early.
“There is more communion at barbecues, at parties, at bars. When you arrive at those gatherings and places, people greet you, they hug you, they ask you how have you been. When you arrive at church, nobody notices each other and they only shake hands when the priest tells them to do so”, Adolfo said.
Father Gofo blends in. He is accepted by the residents of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the area and the community tends to receive him as one of their own. Nobody can enter the barrios (risky neighborhoods) dressed in a suit, groomed, walking with freshly shined shoes, smelling of aftershave, and drive the latest model of a car and then talk about God – like everybody should repent about who they are.
Before he officiates mass, he puts the soutane over his black rock&roll tees but keeps the rings, bracelets and collars in the shape of skulls visible to everyone.
A priest with long hair, arrives at a bar with the number of the anti-Christ written on the wall, drinks a couple of beers and sings to songs of Iron Maiden and Metallica – If I hadn’t have gone to the bar with him, I wouldn’t have believed it.
“I strive for an adult faith, more humane and reasonable. We must demystify faith, the priestly figure people think who won’t smoke or dance, when reality is different. We have to accept the differences and preferences of the others without condemnation. We have to be free and we have to rationalize faith in order to find God everywhere,” Adolfo explains.
The next day Adolfo was to move into the dangerous neighborhood, an area famed for its conflicts and perils. I arrived thirty minutes early and saw him getting on his motorcycle. He entered the church carrying a black jacket and holding a black portfolio. A few residents had already heard about him and looked at him with curiosity. He was the new priest in town. He did confessions that day, something he deeply enjoys. He said that they don’t see him as the disheveled rocker but the savior of their souls.
He is aware that none of this would be possible without the support of the bishop of the region, Raul Vera Lopez, who is famed for his commitment to human rights, especially when it comes to the Central- and South American migrants on their journeys through Mexico. The bishop considers that Adolfo does his work well and he respects the means Adolfo uses to evangelize or instill values in people.
The long hair, the skull rings, the black tees with rock band logos, the music and books are mere instruments through which Adolfo finds God and uses to fulfill his mission in life, to improve people’s lives in dangerous and remote places.
Personally, I’m not the best Catholic and not very devout. I rarely go to church unless it’s for a professional reason. I have to admit that Father Gofo’s story encouraged me to find out more about what the church can offer me. I realized that priests are not necessarily semi-angels but real humans with a deep desire to help others.
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