Stan Raucher: Rite place, rite time

A community that has melded ancient religious beliefs with their daily lives deep in the rainforest

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The Independent Culture

Taking a boat several hundred miles down the Amazon from the Peruvian city of Iquitos last year, Stan Raucher found himself in a small, remote settlement and decided to stay a few days.

One afternoon he hopped aboard a boat, unaware of its destination. His plainly dressed fellow passengers told him they were part of a community called Los Israelitas, and that they were heading for their home, which they invited Raucher to visit.

The photographer, who lives in Seattle, discovered that they were part of an evangelical sect founded in the 1950s by Ezequiel Gamonal, a shoemaker from southern Peru who converted from Catholicism to Seventh-day Adventism before declaring that God had chosen him to found the new Israel. Many left their homes to join him and, now, several hundred live there.

"They were a bit reserved at first, but they are sincere, hard-working and friendly," says Raucher, 66. "They are dedicated to their strong beliefs and enthusiastic about sharing them."

Gamonal died in 2000; his son now leads the sect, which strictly observes the Ten Commandments and models its dress on the films of Cecil B DeMille. Men let their hair and beards grow, women cover their heads. But at the weekend they dress up, observing the Sabbath with long services and sacrifices. There are also week-long celebrations: these pictures were taken at Pentecost.

"These host provide a glimpse into a community that has melded ancient religious beliefs with their daily lives deep in the rainforest," says Raucher. "I hope it will encourage viewers to reflect on the human condition." 1

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