So I’ve been looking up Cristero martyrs. They include a lot of incredible stories that most US Catholics haven’t heard.
One of the gutsiest of the martyrs was Bl. Jose Luciano Ezequiel Huerta Gutierrez. He was born on January 6, 1876, into a large family – 4 boys and 1 girl. Two out of four of the sons became priests, but Ezequiel had a talent for music and no call to the priesthood. This worried some of the family, since a musical career was considered pretty darned racy in the old-fashioned Mexican state of Jalisco. But Ezequiel studied music all the same, learning to play piano and organ, and developing his tenor voice with the same classical training. He decided to become an organist for a parish in his hometown, and the pipe organ there (one of not many in Mexico) became his to play; he became known for his playing’s amazing breadth of style and emotion. He also sang as a cantor, led the church’s treble choir, chose the music, played all the Masses and Offices, and basically did every possible music director thing. He would also come and sing at events whenever asked, and once subbed in a production of Carmen for a traveling company’s sick tenor. He was asked to come with them, but refused. He wouldn’t pursue a secular music career. He believed that his voice had been given to him by God for His service, and so in thanks, he stayed working for the parish.
He married a very organized, quick-witted, and business-minded lady named Maria Eugenia Garcia Ochoa, who loved his music. As soon as they were wed, she started negotiating and signing off on all his contracts. They had ten children; the youngest eventually became a Jesuit brother. They were a happy family, and many friends were amazed at how devoted a husband and how involved a father he was.
Then came the Cristiada. As a devout and involved Catholic, he was involved in some of the activism, but he still had young kids at home. A couple of his older sons and several of his cousins were off fighting with the Cristeros, and he supported them as much as he could. When his parish’s church was closed, he had to scrabble for money as best he could; but he and his wife allowed an entire community of nuns (whose convent had been closed by the government) to share their house. Somehow they managed.
After Bl. Anacleto Flores was martyred, plenty of people involved in pro-Catholic activism or in Cristero activities went to pay their respects to his body. The police were watching, and decided to arrest some of those who showed up. Since they wanted to know the whereabouts of the Huertas who were out fighting and the Huerta priests, but mostly because they wanted to make an example of a prominent citizen, the police went to his house and arrested Huerta, his brother Salvador the mechanic (who was visiting), and a seminarian named Bernal (also visiting) — all in front of his small children. Huerta had been watching his kids while his wife went out to say the Rosary with some friends for Bl. Flores’ soul. She came back just in time to see them take her husband away, and to be threatened with arrest herself.
The seminarian Bernal was eventually released, so he was able to report what happened later. They strung up Salvador and Ezequiel by their thumbs, beat them up, and basically tortured them. Salvador was the kind of guy who banters with God talk under torture, and Ezequiel kept singing an earworm Eucharistic hymn often quoted by the Cristeros. (“Himno a Cristo Rey,” aka “Que viva mi Cristo, que viva mi Rey.”) Finally they beat up Ezequiel to the point that he couldn’t squeak out a word.
At dawn on April 3, 1927, the Huerta brothers were taken out to be shot by the firing squad. Salvador started bantering again, and Ezequiel apparently got enough voice back to banter back. When they lined him up to be shot, some say he managed to start singing “Que viva mi Cristo, que viva mi Rey.” Salvador asked for a candle, commented about his brother beating him to martyrdom, and bantered about forgiving the firing squad until they finally shot him too.
Maria Eugenia heard the shots. Not knowing that it was her husband and brother-in-law, she called her children together and asked them to pray the Rosary for whatever poor people had just been killed.
Yesterday I wrote a post about this guy over on Musica Sacra, for the benefit of the many organists and music directors who could use some intercession by a colleague. People have been very positive. He seems like a very good blessed martyr to know, especially for church musicians.
Bl. Ezequiel Huerta’s Wikipedia page in Spanish, with all kinds of interesting information.
An enthusiastic devotional page in Spanish for the Huerta brothers, which includes a ton of background information and a rundown of the arrest.
A blog page in Spanish including holy cards of the Huertas and other martyr blesseds.