Wearing a fantasy movie T-shirt and with the ends of his hair tinted red, Adolfo Huerta leaves a church in Saltillo looking like an out-of-place dishevelled rocker. In fact, he is the Catholic priest who has just conducted mass.
Huerta is an unconventional man of the cloth, who likes rock music, goes to bars, drinks, smokes, swears and tells jokes during services. But for all his unusual style, he has a good relationship with the local community.
1 / 18
"He entered the church carrying a black jacket and holding a black portfolio... He was the new priest in town."
When I first heard of Adolfo Huerta, or “Father Gofo,” as everybody calls him, I thought the whole thing was a joke. I assumed he liked to drive a motorcycle and wear his hair long, and that he wasn’t a priest at all, but just a guy who enjoyed pretending to be one.
The day I met him, he was packing his stuff because he was being moved to another parish. They were sending him off to a problem neighbourhood – a “hot” area, as they are normally known.
As I chatted with Adolfo, I looked around his room and saw it looked a lot like a teenager’s bedroom. I noticed heavy metal and alternative rock CDs, and there were lots of books piled up high, all with his nickname, “Gofo,” written on them. A poster of Che Guevara was stuck to the wall, along with one of the latest Batman movie and a double-spread picture of a lovely young lady showing her assets au naturel.
Adolfo came round to God and priesthood while studying philosophy at the Pontifical University in Mexico City and working with HIV-positive patients and sex workers as a social activist.
He seems to break all the moulds of a Catholic priest: he likes rock music, dyes the ends of his hair red, dresses in black, and enjoys riding his motorbike. He is a member of a motorcycle club called the “Black Wings”, he goes to bars, he drinks beer, he smokes, he swears and he tells jokes while officiating mass.
He also likes pictures of naked women. Although his female friends complain about the posters, he says he is an admirer of the female body for its beauty and its ability to give birth. No filthy or profane thoughts are behind it though – it’s the chaste life for him!
One night, I went with Father Gofo to a bar called “The Confessionary,” which played music by Iron Maiden and had the number 666 painted on the wall, illuminated with red lights.
Gofo greeted the bar’s owner and waited outside for some friends and members of the “Black Wings”. Inside, he and his mates had a couple of beers, chatted and sang to Pantera and Metallica songs. He left early.
Adolfo sees a lot of benefits to going out: “There is more communion at barbecues, at parties, at bars,” he said. “When you arrive at those gatherings and places, people greet you, they hug you, they ask you how you have been. When you arrive at church, nobody notices each other and they only shake hands when the priest tells them to do so.”
Father Gofo blends in and is accepted by people in the most dangerous areas; the community tends to receive him as one of their own. Nobody can enter the barrios, as the city’s risky neighbourhoods are known, dressed in a suit, walking with freshly shined shoes, smelling of aftershave, and driving the latest model of car and then talk about God as if everyone else should repent of who they are.
Before he officiates mass, Father Gofo puts his cassock over his black rock’n’roll T-shirts but keeps the rings, bracelets and collars in the shape of skulls on show for all to see.
“I strive for an adult faith, more humane and reasonable,” he told me. “We must demystify faith and the priestly figure people think 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 rationalise faith in order to find God everywhere”
The next day Adolfo was to move into a famously rough neighbourhood. I arrived thirty minutes early and saw him getting there 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 took confessions that day, something he really enjoys. He said that his parishioners don’t see him as a dishevelled rocker, but as the saviour of their souls.
Adolfo is aware that none of his work 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 Central- and South American migrants travelling through Mexico. The bishop thinks that Adolfo does his work well and he respects the means Adolfo uses to evangelise and instil values in people.
Personally, I’m not the best Catholic and not I’m very devout. I rarely go to church unless it’s for a professional reason. But I have to admit that Father Gofo’s story encouraged me to find out more about what the Church can offer. I realised that priests are not necessarily angels, but real humans with a deep desire to help others.