Religion: Looking for a Miracle

Deep in the interior of Brazil's state of Bahia last week, the population of the town of Bom Jesus de Lapa was swollen from its usual 4,500 to a teeming 500,000 —sweltering, brawling, praying through fetid nights and sun-baked days. Beggars chanted their off-key songs and picked their scabs till the blood ran, priests dashed about performing ten-minute marriages and baptisms, police struggled unsuccessfully to keep the number of arrests in some ratio to the number of crimes, and hucksters had a field day. A man could buy a wedding ring or an aphrodisiac at the same stand; statuettes of...

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