31st Anniversary of Archbishop Romero’s Assassination

A year ago today, UTS students, staff, faculty, and friends were marching with thousands of people from around the world to remember Monsignor Romero and the Christ-like sacrificial love he offered to the suffering Salvadorans. On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated while giving mass and his life and work are still very much a part of the culture of El Salvador, as well as to those who celebrate liberation theology as vital Christianity and who stand in solidarity with those who suffer injustice.

On Tuesday, March 22, US President Obama and El Salvador President Funes went to the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador where Romero is buried. You can read about and see pictures of the visit here. In the meantime, take a moment to read this brief biography of Romero from USCatholics.org, brows the El Salvador 2010 trip archives, and know it is possible to be Christ-like in word and action.

Viva, Romero!

Top Ten Humorous Moments in El Salvador

For all of the emotional moments we had on the trip, there were a lot of funny ones, too. Here’s a little bit of levity from my eyes. I encourage others on the trip to share some of their favorites, too, and hopefully those will appear in the comments. Here are ten funny moments I experienced on the trip to El Salvador, all off the top of my head and in no particular order:

“I need you to take your seat, ma’am.”

Professor Chris engendered some impatience more than once and from more than one flight attendant on the flight down as she tried to take a head count. Their collective air of pleasant sternness finally got her to sit down so we could take off. Don’t worry, Chris, we all made it to El Salvador safely! :)

“I have no ******* idea what you’re saying, man.”

While listening to President Funes speak, a man kept giving me a big smirk until I finally engaged him. He said something to me in seemingly complicated Spanish and I attempted to respond back, saying “Hola, como es ta?” He looked at me a long time and with a burst of liquor breath said, “Pfft. I have no ******* idea what you’re saying man.” Turns out he spoke English and from our short conversation I think he had lived in the US a whle. I know my Spanish, what exists of it anyway, is horrible, but it was a moment of surprise, nonetheless.

“Say cheese… WHOA!” Continue reading

El Salvador Day 04 – Winding Roads, Being Amongst the People, and a Question of Theology

Hola, dear reader, and welcome to Day Four’s wrap-up. Today saw more opportunities for interacting with the people, more free time to explore cities, and talk of how our experiences effect our personal theologies. Here’s the scoop…

On the Road (to Victoria)

For the first time, our group was outside and in the street before the bus arrived and I think we were all pleased and excited that we managed to be on time (moving a diverse group of twenty-four from place to place takes time). That said, I’m pretty sure the bus was a little late because Christina accidentally left her cell phone at the guest house last night and while Don entrusted it to me for the night in case she called it while I was up in the wee hours blogging, there wasn’t a peep. Then this morning, Christina called during breakfast and then said she would be on her way. So were we really ready before the bus got there? Eh, as a wiser man than myself once said, you’ll find that things all depend on a certain point of view.

Loaded up in the bus, we headed out of San Salvador for the small town Victoria. We picked up a traveler, too, a young reporter who is a friend of Cristina’s. Through translation from Luis, she explained to a handful of us at the front of the bus what “GANA” means. See, we saw GANA painted in white, blue, and orange on nearly every telephone poll and flat rock surface from the airport to San Salvador on our first day in country and we wanted to know what it meant.

The reporter (and I’m sorry, I missed her name) explained that when Funes won the presidency last year, putting the FLMN party in power, the Arena [sic] party which had dominated for over twenty years split as blame between the “cronies” shifted back and forth and finally landed on the former president. GANA is “Great Alliance for National Unity,” a proposed new party which is a conservative party with “modern” viewpoints. However, they need 50,000 signatures to be considered a real party and they use the painted logos in small towns and rural areas as they are “still getting to know the people.” When it comes to the right-wing parties who had been in power for so long, there was more than a touch of controversy regarding what parties were allowed to operate. In each election, if a party doesn’t get enough votes it ceases to exist. However, the Arena party illegally allowed some parties to continue anyway as a strategic move. This ties into how GANA is hoping to rise up as a party since the question of their signatures to become a legitimate party is on the table.

That paragraph took nearly a half-hour of back-and-forth translation. Afterward, we granted our young reporter a reprieve and let her take a nap. She explained she’s young and was up until 2:00am. I explained I was up blogging until 1:30am so I understood what she meant and I took a nap on the bus, too.

More after the jump. For you newbies out there, that’s blog talk for click “continue reading” to see the rest of the post, photos, and comment box. :)

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El Salvador Day 03: Homemade Soup, Marching for Romero, and El Presidente

Today began for me with a little adventure wandering the streets of El Salvador. Internet access has been spotty at the guest house, which I mention not to complain but rather to give better context for you, dear reader, in those “creature comforts” we find so easily at home only to find them missing abroad. Most of our phones don’t work, either, which is different for me because every time something funny, emotionally compelling, or even annoying, I want to reach for my phone and text my wife, just like at home. It’s a bummer to not have that way of communicating but then I think of how $5 of the average Salvadorian’s $15 is spent on precious cell phone minutes to talk with family members in the US about their remittance and I don’t miss it much anymore.

Adventures in Internet-Seeking

Kathryn and I set out to find internet access and had quite the quest as pedestrians in El Salvador with no Spanish skills whatsoever. First we went to Mister Donut and figured out through broken conversation and hand gestures (the international hand gesture for wifi is pointing to a sensor in the corner of the restaurant’s ceiling and push your hand out several times, opening and closing yoru hand to make “five, five, five” or “wifi waves, wifi waves, wifi waves”) that they indeed had wifi. We logged on… but it didn’t work. And we’d already bought coffee and a donut and everything (Good donut, by the way. An aptly-named restaurant.).

Next we went to Burger King. Nope. But they did have Bart Simpson and Indiana Jones kids’ meal toys. I may have to go back and buy some junk I don’t need.

Our final stop was a coffee house that had wifi and we logged in… but their system was down. Hence, the post about 03.19.2010 showed up halfway through 03.20.2010 as the guest house computer was up and running again. But the internet access was only the McGuffin for Kathryn and me. The true tale lies in our travels. We loved the independence and the chance for surprise. We really didn’t know what would happen. Everyone was so friendly and accommodating to us, too. Salvadorians are a friendly people and they tell us over and over how much they appreciate our coming to learn about their history and issues.

Well, they’re almost all friendly. A guy almost ran us over on our way back to the guest house (I am absolutely not exaggerating, it was mere inches) and then a bicyclist almost clipped Kathryn later in the afternoon so she came close to vehicular injury twice.

Here Romero Lived, Here Romero Died

As if seeing where the Jesuits were slain yesterday wasn’t emotional enough, today we went to the chapel where Romero was assassinated. First we were taken to Romero’s home, a modest one-bedroom apartment-style house which the sisters built for him after they’d said enough is enough, you cannot live in that little room behind the chapel chancel anymore. Everything is as Romero left it, from his book cases (I saw at least one book by Jimmy Carter, mom) to his old school metal desk to his clothes closet. Even his toiletries were on display. Also on display were photos taken immediately after his assassination. Because he was shot in the heart, his valves burst open and blood immediately gushed from all orifices. The pictures were hard to look at, though maybe they felt like a softer blow than the Jesuit photos for two simple reasons: they were in black and white instead of color and there were only three of them and not two albums. I won’t post the photo in the gallery at the end of this post and yet if you truly want to see one of the photos, I took a picture and you can click the link here to see what we saw. Continue reading