Tuesday, November 22, 2011

22nd Anniversary of the UCA Martyrs

On the night of November 16, 1989, a Salvadoran Army patrol entered the University of Central America 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 Civil 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 all severely beaten before they were murdered and the women were also raped.

The death squads that killed these individuals and many other people during the war 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.

This past November 16 was the 22nd anniversary of the deaths of the Jesuit priests. And on Saturday, November 12 there was a special celebration at the University of Central America (UCA). Since it’s such an important event, the Pastoral Team decided to go to San Salvador with the delegation for the event.

When we arrived at the UCA the first thing we did was get some candles that we’d be using for the procession that evening. Then we went to see the “alfombras” (carpets) made of sand. I’ve seen similar carpets made during Holy Week for the Good Friday procession. They were all exquisite and I could tell a lot of time had been put into making them. The carpets featured themes of peace, justice, God, and remembrance of the victims. Many carpets had the faces of the victims in them.

Candle holder

22nd Anniversary of the Martyrs of the UCA

Memory and Justice

Working on the carpet

A heart in the middle of El Salvador


I love the colors

The new dawn comes through people led by the Lord

Eyes full of hope

The housekeeper who died

Father Dean, who died recently

Soon after looking at the carpets we made our way to the area when the procession was to start. We all lit our candles and passed on the flame to those around us. There were several large, decorated palms that had been made in honor of the victims. After waiting around for about a half hour we started walking. It was then I realized that we hadn’t actually started the procession yet. We were walking to the place where we’d start the procession. We walked through the downtown streets of San Salvador and around toward the entrance of the university.

Blanca said the procession was different than last year. Usually they just walk and sing for the procession. This year they were doing the stations of the cross for the eight victims who died. We stayed for a few of the stations and then went to go find seats for the mass. There were tons of people already in the area waiting for the mass to begin, eating at the numerous food stands, and browsing at the little shops set up for the celebration. We looked at some of the booths that were set up selling artisan goods, books about the civil war, t-shirts, and other goods. We also got some food to eat.

The 7th Station of the Cross

Another station

Carrying a palm frond

Getting ready for the procession

Lots of palms

Very colorful

A palm for each person

Neither forgiveness nor forgetting

Walking a little ways

I liked the candles they had

Holding a picture of one of the priests

The mass began a little after 9pm. It was held in a big parking lot at the UCA. There was a big stage set up in front and several large screens which would display what was happening on stage during the mass. Throughout the mass they showed different shots of the priest talking, the other priests on stage, and the audience. Well over 1000 people had come to the event. Some people had chairs but everyone else just stood or sat on the ground.

There were more than 15 priests on stage. But they didn’t all say a homily. Instead, each one had a special part in the mass. For me, the best parts of the mass were when we passed the peace and took communion. When it came time to give peace everyone stood up and held hands while one of the priests said a prayer. Then we all shook hands with the people around us. For communion, the priests all went out into the audience with the host. Each was accompanied by someone holding a large lamp. Then the people in the audience could go to the closest priest to receive communion.

The entire celebration was actually a vigil, with people staying there all night singing, eating, and remembering the victims. But we didn’t stay all night. The mass ended a little after 10pm and we made it home about 12:30am. It was definitely worth the trip.

Hay que recordar para no repetir. One must remember in order to not repeat.

Picture of one of the big screens

Toward the end of the mass everyone was tired

1 comment:

Matt said...

I'm so glad you were able to participate in this event. Hard to believe that this happened only 22 years ago. The alfombras and palms are beautiful.