Alfredo picked us up at 8:00am and we were off for our sight-seeing around San Salvador. The first place we headed to was the Memorial Wall in Parque Cuscatlan. 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 since November 2 was the Day of the Dead.
The Memorial Wall
Mission co-worker Katherine talking about the wall
Names of those killed during the war
Remembering loved ones
Katherine challenged us to pick one name from the
wall to remember. I chose Ada Alicia Guzman.
Maggy and Michelle looking at the wall
Some of the names of people who disappeared
and were probably killed. The year is 1984,
the year I was born.
A rare sighting of a squirrel at the park
Next we went to the National Cathedral where martyr and Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was buried. During Romero’s funeral in 1980, there were too many people at to hold it inside the church. It was held outside in the nearby park. During the funeral, in an attempt to terrorize people, men (the Salvadoran army) fired into the crowd from the National Palace nearby. At the same time cars on the 4 corners around the park exploded. Romero’s body in its casket was carried hand over hand into the basement of the National Cathedral. The priests were whisked away into the Cathedral as 7,000 other people crowded in. The Cathedral is only meant to hold 3,000. While only 40 people died that day the government had achieved its purpose of terrorizing the people. Many people call Romero’s death the beginning of the war.
Painting of Romero
The National Cathedral
Then we went to Divinia Providencia where Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero lived and was martyred in 1980. A brief history of Romero: Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez was born on August 15, 1917, to Santos Romero and Guadalupe de Jesus Galdámez in Ciudad Barrios. He was born into a very poor family in a dirt floor home. At age 13 he began working to pay his way to seminary in San Miguel but was quickly promoted to seminary in San Salvador and finished his studies in Rome. On April 4, 1942, Romero was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome. .
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 (country people), 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.
On March 23, 1980, the day before his death, he gave a homily speaking directly to the soldiers. “Brothers, you are from the same people; you kill your fellow peasants… No soldier is obliged to obey an order that is contrary to the will of God… In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people, I ask you, I implore you, I command you in the name of God: stop the repression!”
Romero was assassinated on March 24, 1980 while celebrating Mass in San Salvador at a small chapel in Divinia Providencia. He was speaking about a parable just before he was shot: “Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ will live like the grain of wheat that dies… The harvest comes because of the grain that dies… We know that every effort to improve society, above all when society is so full of injustice and sin, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us.”
Outside the chapel
Collage inside the chapel
The altar where Romero was murdered
A bell outside the church
Out next stop was 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.
First we went into the chapel were there are several sketchings of people, bodies, and torture during the war. People keep these sketchings nearby because they want to remember the bad things so history does not repeat itself.
Then we went into the museum at the UCA about the martyrs of the Civil War. It had information about the Jesuit priests, the housekeeper and daughter, Romero, his friend Rutilio Grande, the American women and nuns that were killed, massacre sites, and the thousands of others who were killed during the war. They had blood spilled from the priests, Romero, and Rutilio Grande, which I always think is interesting. Salvadorans certainly have a way of preserving things, even the bad things. They also had clothing the people were wearing when they died, maps, items that had been burned, and a book that was slashed by the people who murdered the priests.
Outside of the museum was a rose garden memorializing the people who were killed at the UCA. It was created by the housekeeper’s husband. Just around the corner from that was the room where the housekeeper, Elba, and her daughter, Celina, were killed. Inside one rooms of the UCA are several photo albums of the victim’s bodies and body parts taken the morning they were discovered. It’s never easy to look at the photos, but it helps us to better understand what life was like for ordinary people during the Civil War.
Inside the chapel
Sketches inside the chapel
Inside the UCA museum. There was a lot of
information about poverty in El Salvador
Stories about poverty
Faces of poverty
Children and poverty
Replication of how some people live
A sign about sexual violence against women
Flowers in the garden
The memorial garden at the UCA
Katherine talking about the murders
The message we left in the book:
We are here to witness and continue working
for peace and justice for all people.
Our last stop was for lunch and shopping at the artisan market. The only photo I took was of my food because, I admit, I got caught up in the shopping. For lunch I dined on paella, a “hamburger,” and a tortilla. After shopping for over an hour, we finally started out for Berlin at 2:30pm.
We arrived in Berlin around 5:00pm. We were warmly greeted by all the ladies of the Pastoral Team. We got settled in our rooms and again immediately connected to the internet. Then it was a delicious dinner followed by a welcome with the Pastoral Team. One of the highlights for me was seeing my little bird again, Chiquita. Someone gave her to me as a gift in 2011. And she remembered me! So overall a very happy and very sad day.