32nd Anniversary of Archbishop Romero’s Assassination

Today is the 32nd anniversary of the assassinatio of Monsignor Romero. The聽common lectionary聽comes in cycles so聽I understand聽the following connection as聽an amazing coincidence, yet I can’t help but take some prayerful time to consider the lectionary’s gospel passage for this Sunday, March 25, 2012, contains John 12:24, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” This, I have learned, is the final piece of Scripture Monsignor Romero preached on March 24, 1980,聽in the sermon he gave right before he was shot dead through the heart.

Much fruit has been born of this man.

Viva Romero!

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Click-thru to our El Salvador 2010 global trip blog posts.

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!

Who needs Archbishop Romero in their textbook?

Jimmy McCarty wrote a post on the God’s Politics blog by Jim Wallis about his impressions of Romero. In this post, you’ll see an imbedded video from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart detailing how a board of education in Texas decided whether or not to include Romero in the textbook. As McCarty writes, skip to 2:29 if you want to miss adult humor and go straight to the subject at hand.

I cried when I watched this. It’s yet another way I’ve found it difficult to control my emotions in the last 48 hours since returning home. It’s the “disappeared” comment that really got me. But I must say, it’s for good reason, as that video aired the night before we left on our trip and this woman truly lives in her willful ignorance. It really makes me sad.

If you don’t want to read McCarty’s article, here’s the link to the video directly.

What do you think?

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El Salvador Day 07 鈥 A March, Some Pottery, a Nun, and Karaoke

Update: I’ve added photos so take a look!

Today was yet another full day yet I must be brief if I鈥檓 to have any energy left for our final day in El Salvador tomorrow. So much has happened here and it鈥檚 hard to believe Thursday is our final full day before we pack up and head out early Friday. I’m still having trouble uploading photos. Well, I found a way, but it would be one at a time and it’s simply too late in the night, I’m sorry.You’ll have to remain content with my written ramblings until I find an easier way to reinstate photos in the new posts.

Here鈥檚 the scoop, dear reader鈥

Weighing Our Options

Today was the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Monsignor Oscar Romero. We began the morning by bussing out to the chapel where Romero was shot through the heart and found the entire chapel and plaza completely full. A worship service went on as we shopped, rested, and prepared for a march during the day 鈥 a big difference from marching in the cool of the evening as we did on Friday night.

Before we left the guest house, however, we examined our options for the day: march the whole march, join in late, start it and end early, or whatever else was on the table. We chose to start it and see what happens, as Christina felt it was important for us to see the full chapel. It turned out to be the right decision, too, as we had a chance to purchase flags, bandannas, and other memorabilia with Romero鈥檚 visage gracing it. Plus, I got the chance to meet a Deputy, a Senator in the National Assembly of El Salvador. A man in a suit was walking around, shaking hands with excited people. I figured hey, this guy鈥檚 got to be somebody, so I simply asked him if he spoke English and who he was. He told me, I asked for a photo together, and when I showed it to Cristina, I learned he was Damian Alegria. I now have taken a photo with a Salvadorian senator and a photo of the president from only five feet away.

A March of Solidarity

We let the beginning of the parade go by and joined in, waving our flags and joining in on several of the chants. Many of us were overwhelmed by Continue reading

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

Hola, dear reader, and welcome to Day Four鈥檚 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鈥檚 the scoop鈥

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鈥檓 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鈥檛 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鈥檒l 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鈥檚. Through translation from Luis, she explained to a handful of us at the front of the bus what 鈥淕ANA鈥 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鈥檓 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 鈥渃ronies鈥 shifted back and forth and finally landed on the former president. GANA is 鈥淕reat Alliance for National Unity,鈥 a proposed new party which is a conservative party with 鈥渕odern鈥 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 鈥渟till getting to know the people.鈥 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鈥檛 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鈥檚 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鈥檚 blog talk for click 鈥渃ontinue reading鈥 to see the rest of the post, photos, and comment box. :)

Continue reading

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 鈥渃reature comforts鈥 we find so easily at home only to find them missing abroad. Most of our phones don鈥檛 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鈥檚 a bummer to not have that way of communicating but then I think of how $5 of the average Salvadorian鈥檚 $15 is spent on precious cell phone minutes to talk with family members in the US about their remittance and I don鈥檛 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鈥檚 ceiling and push your hand out several times, opening and closing yoru hand to make 鈥渇ive, five, five鈥 or 鈥渨ifi waves, wifi waves, wifi waves鈥) that they indeed had wifi. We logged on鈥 but it didn鈥檛 work. And we鈥檇 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鈥 meal toys. I may have to go back and buy some junk I don鈥檛 need.

Our final stop was a coffee house that had wifi and we logged in鈥 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鈥檛 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鈥檙e 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鈥檛 emotional enough, today we went to the chapel where Romero was assassinated. First we were taken to Romero鈥檚 home, a modest one-bedroom apartment-style house which the sisters built for him after they鈥檇 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鈥檛 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

El Salvador Day 02: Two Red Books on Holy Ground, the High Price of Immigration, and Meeting Jon Sobrino

We thank you so much for all of your comments, please keep them coming!

Today was a full day, an emotional day. Here鈥檚 the scoop, dear reader鈥

You know what鈥檚 weird? Hearing someone proclaim your native country to be an 鈥渋mperial nation鈥 to your face.

That鈥檚 what happened yesterday during our history of El Salvador presentation yesterday as Carlos explained how the US government has been culpable in Salvadorian oppression for decades and we heard a similar thought, in different words, today during our presentation from another man named Carlos who explained the two major problems in El Salvador, economics and violence. But let me step back for a moment because we witnessed profound images before we listened to this story.

The Red Books

Our first stop was at the University of Central America where we traveled through a museum dedicated to the martyrdom of six Jesuit priests and two women who were executed in 1989. I encourage you to read about the full story on another website, as in the meantime I want to talk about the emotions involved in seeing this museum. First, the museum was located in the offices of the Jesuit priests, meaning we learned of their lives in what was once the space where they worked their message. There were photos on the wall showing the firebombing the soldiers did to the offices, bringing home what this space once was. We saw clothing and items belonging to Rutullio Grande and Romero, plus the actual clothing the Jesuits wore as they were executed. Bullet holes were like聽 pockmarks across the fabrics and stains of blood and other bodily fluids from the assassination that night are still clearly visible in each garment. Combined with bullet-riddled Bibles, torched paintings of Romero, and photos of the two women who were also killed, the museum was a haunting tribute to their lives. Continue reading

El Salvador Day 01: Airports, Buses, and Arrivals

I鈥檒l start off by saying the wifi internet access in our guest house isn鈥檛 doing much for us (okay, it isn鈥檛 doing anything). My posts will come as frequently as possible, pending other internet access is found here and there. And with that, on to the main event鈥

Our trip to El Salvador began this morning with the best sort of travel drama 鈥 airport drama. Most everyone arrived at or around 3:30am just as we planned but when we hit the lines, all of Continental鈥檚 computers went down and they couldn鈥檛 check us in. Domestic flyers? You鈥檙e all set. International flights? Not so much. After an hour鈥檚 wait or so, they rigged a manual system including hand-written ticket vouchers which we would turn in for real boarding passes at the gate once we went through security. The clock to our 5:20am flight ticked down and I didn鈥檛 get through security until 5:20am with several members of the party behind me. The flight was held, however, and everybody made it onboard just fine.

Well, almost everyone. Jenn B.鈥檚 travel drama began with a missed alarm鈥 and a missed flight. We tracked down her cell phone number thanks to UTS student Sonja being willing to be roused out of bed at 4:00am and look it up online in the student directory, but Jenn鈥檚 phone was off and all we could do was leave messages and pray there was no emergency. Turns out Jenn knew just what to do when she woke up and made the proper calls to the Center for Global Education and is on a flight to join us tomorrow. This is an odd twist of fate for us, as she鈥檚 also bringing along a box of t-shirts we had made up for the group that got left behind through it鈥檚 own sort of odd traveling drama. Finally, with drama behind us, we got our trip underway. Continue reading

Our Group T-Shirts Are Ready

Jackie F. has passed along to me the image of the t-shirts our group will have during the trip. Click the pic to see it enlarged:

The only Spanish I know is what I learned on Sesame Street over twenty years ago. Anyone care to enlighten me on what the t-shirt reads in the comments section? (Update: translation and the shirt’s origins are in the comments. Thanks, Jackie.)

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Pre-Trip Reading: Witnesses to the Kingdom

Students going to El Salvador have been assigned a handful of books to read before the trip and after the trip, each requiring a brief written reaction piece. Here’s one of mine:

Witnesses to the Kingdom: Martyrs of El Salvador and the Crucified Peoples by Jon Sobrino

A figurehead of liberation theology, Jon Sobrino is a respected theologian who’s writing about those who have gone before him who engendered both his respect and represented something profound in their theology or what they represent theologically. He鈥檚 writing about martyrs.

Rather than tour through all of the stories Sobrino tells of martyrs, I want to address his writing style and philosophy because that is what intrigues me most as a writer. With all due respect to those who have died for a cause, all I can say about reading these stories is I was struck by how I鈥檝e never even contemplated this sort of thing to be a part of my life. I don鈥檛 know anyone who has died for a cause and I don鈥檛 know what cause I believe strongly enough in to offer my life. I鈥檝e heard it said many parents would die for their children though perhaps I need children in order to truly understand this idea. I鈥檓 still wrapping my head around the concept of martyrdom, even after reading the stories in Sobrino鈥檚 book, though something tells me it鈥檚 going to come up more than once on the trip. With that said, exploring why Sobrino’s writing style is so powerful definitely intrigues me and is inspirational in terms of my own desire to produce better writing. Continue reading