A satanic sculpture protects drivers at an Ecuadorian road
Believers in Latin America –those who worship a Hebrew type of god, not those who revere a Canadian singer- have quite a large collection of catholic saints and virgins to devoutly veneer. Each town has at least one. That’s for sure. Ecuador is no exception to that rule. According to recent data, close to 81% of its population are Catholics.
In that context, any newcomer to this land will certainly be astonished to see the devil himself, the evil one, Satan, Beelzebub or however people call him (or her) sculpted in a huge mountain rock beside one of the main roads that connects the Andes with the Coast. This magnificent piece of art is 20 meters long and is located in the Alóag – Santo Domingo road, near a small town called Tandapi.
When I was a little kid and I was travelling with my family to the beach, the view of this sculpture was something I was eager to see every single time. It provoked a mixture of feelings: expectation, fear, respect… but above all amazement. Back then people used to say that the face of the devil appeared out of the sudden, with its animal like grin and a phrase that reads “Poder brutal” (brutal power) beneath its chin.
Satanists, heretics or even Martians where to blame back then for this work. Weirdly enough no one damaged or destroyed the piece, so it remained there as a landmark with no clear origin. Years went by and finally it was revealed that there was nothing evil behind this huge achievement. Its creator was a self-thought sculptor named César Octaviano Buenaño Núñez.
This devote catholic had no formal artistic instruction. He worked as a tractor driver for the government when he was sent to this location to tear down a mountain that was blocking the view of the drivers in a dangerous curve. In secret, he worked his way inside of the mountain and during a year and half (from 1985 to 1987) he spent most of his free time sculpting the face of the devil in a rock that he found under the surface.
Mr. Buenaño must have been great with words. Just imagine delaying a day’s work to more than a year. Of course, when the contractors lost their patience, they put some dynamite and blew the mountain up. Luckily, the artistic job was already done. After the hit of the explosion, a satanic sculpture was revealed and the legend begun.
During his lifetime, the artist gave two possible meanings behind the piece. The first one was that it was built to protect drivers in a road known for its dangerous curves and huge abysses. The logic behind that was: If the Devil is taking people’s lives, it should better have a monument to ask for mercy.
According to a local newspaper, Buenaño was also quoted saying -during a visit to the United States- that the statue represents USA and its imperial power.
Anyhow, the piece will soon be 30 years old and it still gives me chills when I have to take that road. Nowadays the nature surrounding it has covered it partially. However, its creepy grin still follows the journey of the drivers; it reminds them of an animal like force that lies within each individual: the force of a brutal power.