Thursday, February 10, 2011

San Salvador

Wednesday, 2-9-11

Today has been another long but wonderful day. I woke up at 6:45am; about 15 minutes before my alarm was suppose to go off. That was good because I realized that I hadn’t actually turned the alarm on. Oh well. We went downstairs for breakfast around 7:30am. We scarfed down our food and left the guest house at 8:00am to see some historical sites.

Our first stop was the memorial wall at Parque Cuscatlán. The wall is a monument to memory and truth; a remembrance of all those who were murdered during the Civil War in El Salvador (officially, 1980-1992). On the wall are the names of 30,000 civilians who were declared murdered during the Civil War. However, at least 75,000 people were killed during the war (some estimates put the number closer to 300,000). The names of those murdered were listed by year, staring in the 1970s when tensions were mounting between the government/military and the peasants of El Salvador. The wall also lists various massacres that occurred around the country during the war. There were several flowers taped up next to names on the wall. In one area, there was an additional name of a person who was killed taped up on the wall.

At the memorial wall

This part of the mural represents the indigenous people who once
inhabited El Salvador: The Mayan, Lenca, and Pipil

This part of the mural represents the Matanza in the 1930's,
which is when many indigenous people were killed or threatened
to be killed if they spoke their own language or wore their native clothes.

This part of the mural represents what was happening during
the Civil War. The "photo" the woman is holding is of
Oscar Romero.

This part of the mural represents the new life the people have,
paid for by their own blood

A flower taped to the wall

Another flower amongst names

Various massacre sites

Another name of someone killed during the war
taped to the wall

Next we headed to Divinia Providencia, where Archbishop Oscar Romero lived and was martyred in 1980. We spent some time in the church was he was killed and the little house where he lived. A nun gave us a history of his life. Here’s a bit of info about Romero:

Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez was born on August 15, 1917, to Santos Romero and Guadalupe de Jesus Galdámez in Ciudad Barrios. On April 4, 1942, Romero was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome. Romero remained in Italy to obtain a doctoral degree in theology which specialized in ascetical theology. In 1970 he was appointed auxiliary bishop to San Salvador Archbishop Luis Chávez, a move not welcomed by the more progressive members of the priesthood in El Salvador. On February 23, 1977, he was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador. His appointment was met with surprise, dismay, and even incredulity. While this appointment was welcomed by the government, many priests were disappointed, especially those openly aligning with Marxism. The Marxist priests feared that his conservative reputation would negatively affect liberation theology's commitment to the poor.

On March 12, 1977 a progressive Jesuit priest and personal friend of Romero, Rutilio Grande, who had been creating self-reliance groups among the poor campesinos, was assassinated. His death had a profound impact on Romero who later stated, “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, ‘If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path’.” In response to Father Rutilio’s murder, Romero revealed a radicalism that had not been evident earlier. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture. As a result, Romero began to be noticed internationally

In 1979, the Revolutionary Government Junta came to power amidst a wave of human rights abuses by paramilitary right-wing groups and the government. Romero criticized the United States for giving military aid to the new government and wrote to President Jimmy Carter in February 1980, warning that increased US military aid would “undoubtedly sharpen the injustice and the repression inflicted on the organized people, whose struggle has often been for their most basic human rights”. Carter, concerned that El Salvador would become “another Nicaragua” ignored Romero's pleas and continued military aid to the Salvadoran government.

Romero was shot on March 24, 1980 while celebrating Mass in San Salvador at a small chapel located in a hospital called “La Divinia Providencia.” He was shot during a sermon where he had called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government's repression and violations of basic human rights. According to an audio-recording of the Mass he was shot while elevating the chalice at the end of the Eucharistic rite. When he was shot his blood spilled over the altar along with the sacramental wine.
The assassins were members of a military death squad. This view was supported in 1993 by an official U.N. report, which identified the man who ordered the killing as former Major and School of the Americas graduate Roberto D'Aubuisson. Romero is buried in the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador. The funeral mass on March 30, 1980, in San Salvador was attended by more than 250,000 mourners from all over the world.

After telling us the story of what happened when he was killed the nun had us stand behind the altar where he was shot. She told us to imagine what it must have been like to be Romero when he was standing behind the altar giving mass and was suddenly struck by a bullet. He must have been able to see the car drive by and the gunman in the backseat who would take his life. But he stood where he was and raised the host, preparing to bless it. When he was shot he fell backwards and grabbed onto the cloth that was on the altar in front of him. He died instantly. It was a pretty intense and tearful moment for all of us.

A photo hanging in the chapel where Romero was killed.
It is of the 6 Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and daughter who were killed

A poster of Romero in the chapel

The nun telling us the story of Romero
and Kathy translating

The altar where Romero was killed

Romero's house, now a museum

A painting inside the museum

The nun in front of the museum

A mural on the wall outside Divinia Providencia

When we left Divinia Providencia we headed to the University of Central America (the UCA). On the night of November 16, 1989, a Salvadoran Army patrol entered the UCA in San Salvador and massacred six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter. The murders were committed because the Jesuits were voicing concerns over the atrocities of human rights violations being committed by the government during the war. They were all taken from their beds in the middle of the night. Some were killed in their rooms while others were dragged outside and killed. They were severely beaten before they were murdered. The death squads that killed these individuals and many other people were known for making an example out of people. They liked to kill and display people in the way that they were “committing offenses” against the government. The Jesuits used their mind and knowledge to speak out against what the Salvadoran government was doing. Thus, many of them had their brains torn out of their heads and spread over the ground.

In one of the rooms at the UCA was a museum to the martyrs of the Civil War. It included information, possessions, and the blood of Romero, his friend Rutilio Grande, the American nuns that were killed, the Jesuit priests, the housekeeper and daughter, and the thousands of other people that were killed. Just outside of the museum was a rose garden memorializing the people who were killed at the UCA. In one room of the UCA are several photo albums of the victim’s bodies and body parts taken the morning they were discovered. It wasn’t easy to look at the photos, but it helps us to better understand what life was like for ordinary people during the Civil War.

A plaque in the rose garden

A beautiful poinsettia

Crown of thorns flowers

Afterwards we headed to the artisan shops to eat lunch and do some shopping. As we were finished lunch Betty saw a green bird in a tree nearby. And although she kept pointing it out to me I still couldn’t see it. So I had to have Kathy take my camera and take a picture of the bird so I could figure out where it was. Eventually I saw it. It was a Torogoz, which is the national bird of El Salvador and I was VERY excited to see it! My picture didn’t turn out too well because my camera doesn’t have a great zoom, but Maurice got a good one.

We walked around looking at the crafts for a little over an hour. There are so many cool things to see and buy, it’s hard to convince yourself that you really don’t need everything you see. I ended up with a really neat necklace made out of seeds that come from trees in El Salvador. I also bought a Christmas ornament made out of a little gourd with a nativity scene inside. After that I told myself that I’d be here another 10 months and really didn’t need to buy anything else.

After I finished shopping I went to sit by Larry to take a break. He started telling me about a sign he’d seen for the Ministry of Salads. Apparently, he said, gringos shouldn’t be eating salads from El Salvador. At this point I was very confused. I asked him what he was talking about. He told me the sign said “Ministerio de Salud”. “Ohhh,” I replied, “that means Ministry of Health, not Ministry of Salads.” We both started cracking up. I later shared that story with the rest of the group.

A torogoz!

Alfredo taking a siesta

We left the artisan shops around 2:15pm. I slept part of the way back to Berlín. I woke up when we pulled over to get some gas. I went inside to use the facilities and bought myself a Snickers bar. It was delightfully filling. We got back on the road and continued our journey to Berlín. About a half hour before we arrived Alfredo pulled over so we could buy some watermelons to take to the house (see photo of Maurice below). And Linda told us a hilarious joke about Arkansas. We thought it’d be fun to share on my blog: They were going to create a CSI: Arkansas show for television, but no one there has any teeth and they all have the same DNA!!!

We arrived at the Pastoral House around 5:00pm. Greetings and hugs were in store for all. Some very exciting news: there is a pet duck at the Pastoral House! Her name is Barbara and she is adorable! I immediately went to say hi to her and fed her some bread. The rest of the evening was spent doing devotionals, reflections, and chatting about the trip thus far. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to bed until very late (12:30am) which is why I didn’t post this blog last night.

A torogoz statue

View of the valley below

Bananas at a place alongside the road

Nice melons!!

Barbara, the Pastoral House duck

Hard at work


The Presbytery of Des Moines said...

Tell Maurice I hope he brings us back some of those Melons! You all look like you are having a good time. I would love to see some more close ups of the mission delegation. Thanks Alisha for doing such a good job documenting everything!

Matt said...

I'm so glad you were finally able to see a torogoz! I know you have been really wanting to. I'm excited to come down and see all of the Romero stuff in person. I'm sure it is quite moving.

Kevin Pokorny said...

I don't recall ever seeing a green bird. It was delightful. You shared a moving story about Romero.