El Palmar. A development stain next to the mastic tree of the apparitions was interpreted as a divine manifestation. Photograph by the amateur Ignacio Darnaude, 1968.
El Palmar. People going to the tree of apparitions.  

The subject of Bienaventurados (The Blessed) is the new religious movements. One of the paradoxes of western societies lies at the heart of this research. On the one hand, it contributes to disillusionment, which leads to secularisation, and on the other, it catalyses and drives pluralism and the establishment of spaces in which religious values and rules, which in principle belong to the private lives of the faithful and their communities, influence and decide certain aspects of public life. This explains why, parallel to the process of secularisation and falling numbers of believers in traditional religions, the new religious movements are growing at an extraordinary rate . This phenomenon, protected in Spain by freedom of religion, reflects what is going worldwide.

The term New Religious Movements alludes to the early stages of a social movement organised around beliefs and practices concerning ideas about what is holy, united into a structure known as the Church. My intention is to produce a documentary work, on photographic support, to reflect the basic characteristics of these countercultural movements (considering them to be countercultural because they present themselves as alternative manifestations to the predominan churches and conserve and transmit their belifs through samll social groups). There have been many studies of the new social movements in recent decades, when these have appeared and engaged in political activism with the greatest intensity. The aim of my reflection is to show that the new religious movements form part of a social movement share values, rules, symbols and beliefs which help to generate feelings of belonging to the movement. These elements are linked to the image a movement's followers have of themselves.

To develop my work, I focused on cultural and social groups and organisations that emerged and were shaped by religious establishments, recording elements using the portrait as my genre to record such aspects el entramado de relaciones sociales, la identidad individual y colectiva, la transmisión de las creencias o el contacto generacional.

I'm interested in religion because it is one of the most important elements in forming identity, both from the individual and social point of view. Religion, like ideology an the social institution, has deep cultural roots and plays a crucial part in socialisation processes, social control and identity delimitation. Also, as I have noted, it determines many aspects of public life.

Perhaps the most fundamental requirement for belonging to a community is the desire to organise your life through a series of categories, such as the familiar, the unusual and the dangerous. The idea that individuals who are essentially different from us exist is the basis on which we articulate our feelings of belonging to a group.

Thanks to these differences, we are capable of identifying with a lifestyle or a definition of what this should be. However, in order for these demarcations to create a sense of community it is not enough to conceive of them; we need to find a way of expressing them that makes them possible to communicate: specifically, images and symbols. Looking back at historical processes, we can see that it is impossible to explain religious conquests without the images and symbols that go to create new identities, invent memories and generate spaces for representation in the heart of societies that discriminated against them. One of the main reasons I have undertaken this research work is in order to document this process.

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