By Gabriel Monte: Freedom New Mexico
Gene Lovato was flooded with a mix of emotions when he saw the crucifix lying inside the barn.
Lovato came across the decaying life-sized statue of Jesus Christ nailed to a cross while looking at property in north Clovis. Fingers on the left hand of the dirt-caked statue were missing.
He was overjoyed to find an artifact similar to ones that were revered during his childhood; but heartbroken to see it in such a state of disrepair. His wife, Inez, who had a similar upbringing, was also sadden by the condition of the crucifix.
“My heart jumped — it sang. My wife cried for a couple of hours after we found it,” said Lovato, who purchased the crucifix from the property owner for an undisclosed price.
Religion played an important part in his life when he was growing up, said Lovato, who operates the Pathway House, a Clovis treatment center for boys ages 12-18 who are involved in the legal system or wards of Children, Youth and Families Department.
“My grandfather, father and my uncle belonged to an organization called the Penitentes. That’s my background. I grew up with … the proper adulation for the saints, and so that was the primary (driving force) for buying it.” said Lovato, who declined to say how much he paid for it.
Lovato said he is having the crucifix restored and plans to have it displayed in churches.
“We want to make it a public property,” he said. “We want to retain control of it, but we want it to be very public. We want it to receive the proper adulation.”
The crucifix is made of a material that has not been used in more than 150 years and could even pre-date Mexico’s government, according to University of New Mexico adjunct professor Charlie Carrillo, an anthropologist, who Lovato asked to examine the crucifix.
Carrillo said it was probably made when Mexico was still New Spain.
Carrillo said the crucifix is a traditional Styrofoam-like material that ismade from cornstalk