Look Closer is a photo series by OZY that encourages readers to see beyond a seemingly normal photo. Hover over the circles to explore the photo more deeply.
Horses are apt to experience stress and get spooked. Contact with flames can make them skittish or experience colic.
Nonetheless, horses have been leaping through bonfires in this Spanish purification ceremony for half a millennium — they’re a critical part of the Las Luminarias festival, which occurs each January.
The swift flames and blistering smoke are meant to protect people for the coming year, including the horses, who are purified by the fire, according to legend.
The riders span generations and backgrounds: couples and singles, parents and children, young and old ride atop the horses for this celebration, which has come under scrutiny by advocates who question whether it’s damaging for the animals.
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This is neither the historic Don Quixote riding into the night on his noble steed nor a gripping Game of Thrones scene. No, this horseman is amidst fire entirely of his own accord — he leaps in celebration — as one of few around the world these days who are actively seeking flames rather than fearing their destruction.
This particular fire’s history traces back to a traditional bonfire in the Spanish village of San Bartolomé de Pinares. This horseman is helping to kick off the traditional religious Las Luminarias festival occurring in January to honor San Antonio Abad — St. Anthony — the patron saint of animals. Spaniards have been carrying on this purification ritual, which occurs on Jan. 16, for 500 years. More than 100 other horses will traipse behind the steed pictured here, as part of an event that some speculate began as a Celtic pagan ritual and has come to signify rebirth.
But whether the patron saint of animals would truly be thrilled that more than 100 horses are forced to walk through flames is up for debate. A petition has been circulated to end the practice, as some argue that it’s unethical to force the animals through licking flames that are likely to provoke stress and make them skittish. The notion of ushering in purity via superstition is outdated, say some, whereas others want to hold close and maintain a centuries-old village tradition.
Photograph by Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP / Getty
LOOK CLOSER: ESCAPING A WILDFIRE, OR SOMETHING PURELY LESS SCARY?
Look Closer is a new photo series by OZY that encourages readers to see beyond a seemingly normal photo. Hover over the circles to explore the photo more deeply.
The idea for the quilt was hatched by activist Cleve Jones during the candlelight march in remembrance of the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
There were more than 44,000 individual panels in the quilt, weighing more than 10,000 pounds.
The first display of the quilt was in 1987, in Washington, D.C., and it was displayed again in 1996 to be visited by President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton. It was shown again at the time of the XIX International AIDS Conference in 2012.
The quilt was often the only opportunity survivors had to remember and honor the lives of their loved ones. Many who died of AIDS-related illnesses didn’t have funerals because of the social stigma early on. In fact, some funeral homes and cemeteries even refused to accept the bodies of the deceased.
This could be Washingtonians standing beside a giant board game on the National Mall. But look beyond a glance and you’ll see that the spectators are gathered around the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt on a crisp October day in 1996. The expansive, colorful AIDS Memorial Quilt — with more than 44,000 panels weighing over 10,000 pounds — was designed to be an eye-catching tool for a national prevention campaign that portrayed the humanity behind the statistics. The idea for the project was hatched in 1985 by activist Cleve Jones and other volunteers during a candlelight march in remembrance of the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
In more ways than one, 1996 was an inflection point. It was the first year since the epidemic started that saw the AIDS incidence rate and deaths decline. In the same year, Time magazine Man of the Year was granted to AIDS researcher Dr. David Ho. The doctor was a pioneer in the use of drug “cocktails,” or combinations, to fight the virus. At the time, 23 million people worldwide were estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS, and more than 6 million people had already died.
“When the history of this era is written, it is likely that the men and women who turned the tide on AIDS will be seen as true heroes of the age,” Time wrote about Dr. Ho. By 2017, more than two decades later, nearly 37 million people had HIV/AIDS worldwide, according to UNAIDS.
Today, remembrance and commitment to LGBTQ rights are no less pressing. Pride Month, which commemorates the Stonewall riots of 1969 in Manhattan, is simultaneously a time for resistance and celebration. Among those both within and outside the LGBTQ community, this month evokes an intentional remembrance of decades of hard-fought progress that LGBTQ activists have made in demanding equal rights in American society. At the same time, it’s a reminder that democracy requires the active participation of all — and that the battle for equality is neither over nor won.
Photograph by Shayna Brennan/AP
Look Closer: Rugs, Giant Board Game, or Something Far More Poignant?
By Carly Stern