Religion and politics mix in El Salvador

The legacy of a murdered archbishop and a polarized political situation creates a unique mixture of religion and politics in El Salvador. As I described in Saturday's post, Salvadorans commemorated the 27th anniversary of the assassination of archbishop Romero this weekend. The assassination was ordered by Roberto D' Aubuisson, founder of the ruling ARENA party.

Sunday night I observed in several localities that local FMLN organizations were conducting rallies to commemorate the anniversary of Romero's death. They sponsored public showings of films about Romero and band concerts. Shouts of "Que vive Romero! Que vive Farabundo Marti!" filled the air. The photo at the top of this post is from one of those rallies.

This prompted at friend who was with me to remark that the Romero "trademark" is a powerful one that many groups make use of. I have seen T-shirts for sale, for example, which include together the portraits of Che Guevara, Farabundo Marti (communist leader of failed peasant revolt in 1932) and Schafik Handal (FMLN leader who died last year).

This is a country where the decision by the Vatican to issue a caution regarding the works of a local theologian, Jon Sobrino, is seen in decidedly political terms, because Sobrino's theology of liberation is decidedly political. This is a country where press conferences given by bishops each week on political topics are widely reported in the media.

It's a mixture of God and politics which is uniquely Salvadoran.


El-Visitador said…
One might think those who love Monsignor Romero would object to the rank commercialization of his image on t-shirts next to

* bloodthirsty Communist thug Che Guevara, or
* Stalin's Communist minion Farabundo Marti, or
* Communist dinosaur Schafik Handal

First, it is not clear that Monsignor would have agreed that his serene likeness be used to whitewash a rabid bunch of godless enemies of his Church.

Second, how can Monsignor's message of Christian love (such as it is) be conveyed to a Salvadorean generation who learns to associate Monsignor's name with Communist antisocials?

It is a disservice to Monsignor's teachings to let a political wing hijack his memory, and the guilt of this transgression should weigh heavily in the souls of those who say they love him, yet remain silent as Monsignor's image is sullied and dragged through the mud.
Carlos X. said…
It *IS* a disservice to Monseñor's teachings to let the left hijack his image, yet I don't see the right rushing in to the rescue. It seems that Monseñor's "message of Christian love (such as it is)" falls on deaf ears in certain camps. El-Vis. is right and I agree that Monseñor belongs in the altar, not on Che T-shirts. But, the blame for the left for this situation is miniscule compared to the blame for the right which, to begin with, literally hated Romero to death. Not content with having assassinated his person, they are responsible for the character assassination of Romero. The same ilk who now tell us that Robert White is a communist first branded Romero a communist, and lo and behold, who were the only people who felt kindred spirits with Romero but communists -- why is it so surprising? Romero calls to everyone, and everyone must respond. Some must respond in the way El-Vis. suggests, others have to answer for other responsibilities. It depends on where you fall in the spectrum. But, Romero is a challenger, a provocation to all of us. No one walks away from the call of conscience. The murder of an Archbishop leaves a terrible stain, and T-shirts are the least of the concerns that lie in the wake of that dreadful responsibility.
Carlos X. said…
Post-Script: I join in El Visitator's calls to take Romero off the T-shirts and I invite El Visitador to join in my call for three easy spoonfulls of medicine that will ameliorate the situation:

• The investigation and prosecution of the murder of Archbishop Romero in El Salvador.

• The appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the involvement of ARENA party founder Roberto D'Aubuisson in the Romero assassination in order to clarify the point once and for all.

• The cessation of the denigration of Romero by detractors who say that he "brought communism to El Salvador"; that he "instigated Salvadorans to armed resistance"; that he was a "tercermundista"; a "Marxnulfo" etc., and an invitation to those detractors to read Romero's homilies in light of the recently published Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

What do you say, Visitador?
Anonymous said…
He won't say nothing.

We have to understand that the origin of cristhianismo is linked to a primitive form of comunism.

That is why there are Christian Comunist in the first place, but they're not link to any political party.

the right win did condend Monseñor Romero, and call him comunist, they were the first who place a political issue over Monseñor Romero, the had branded him as a political figure in the first place.

And they, were the one that hijack y murdered him, by placing justification to commit the crime agains humanity.
And they and hipocritical views such as the EV, are amonst the one who use ideology to denigrate any one, who oposed the goberment, just look at the way they condenm him, but salvadorean always march together to keep him alive, and denounced the crime commited.

We love Romero, above ideology, because he was honest in all senses, he lives amongst us, and die amongst us.

The antisocial rigth wings, live in world with a narrow view, always subjected to money and money interest, corrupction and crime.

Killers, they are.
Anonymous said…
What morality have the criminal right wing, those who in the past called monseñor Romero a comunist, and killed him?
What morality have the ARENA party when his founder was the one who commited the crime? And now they called Robert White, communist, just because he denounced it?
El-Visitador said…
"The investigation and prosecution of the murder of Archbishop Romero in El Salvador."

Assuming it is lawful, I don't see why not.

"The appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the involvement of ARENA party founder Roberto D'Aubuisson in the Romero assassination in order to clarify the point once and for all."

I know of no court or legal system anywhere that will try dead people.

"The cessation of the denigration of Romero by detractors who say that he "brought communism to El Salvador"; that he "instigated Salvadorans to armed resistance"; that he was a "tercermundista"; a "Marxnulfo" etc., and an invitation to those detractors to read Romero's homilies in light of the recently published Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church."

Well, I don't think anyone can silence detractors. I mean, it's a free country, and all that.

What one could do is denounce those who hijack Monsignor's name for political causes. One could also denounce those who say they love Monsignor, yet remain silent as his mantle is hijacked.
Anonymous said…
Starting to abolish the amnisty law which protect the criminals hiden within the ARENA party.

That's why Tony Saca and other presidents in the country do not want to do it, they already know that it will bring so many of his founders to justice.

If not, this will be settle in USA or any European Court, since those crimes committed are of crimes of lessa humanity, such as the one in el MOZOTE, and the cases of the Jesuits.

Robert White has already said that there was a plot to assesinate him, that is a case against one American citizens.
Anonymous said…
Since Monsignor Romero was a Christian, who embraced the love of God as being the ultimate law for man, why wouldn´t it honor him even more if his followers were to actually forgive the people responsible for his murder? Just a thought.
Anonymous said…

That's very nice. But a crime is a crimen.
By the way, who can forgive some who still hidden behind the impunity and even don't consider had already make a mistake.

We're not talking about something that can not be tolerated in society, Only in El Salvador, people such as those exist to still go around with weapons, they are completly sick, the should be place in a reformatory, they are psicopats killers who had never consider to respet human rights, and innocent man in a church while they are given their spirit in conciliation and peace. Think about the way they killed monseñor, from the distance, cowardly killed an inocent man who was there to give more than his life to our brotherhood, with not weapons but with his heart at hand and the true.
El Salvador will never be release from the past since the past is never close, and release, we need to come to terms and those responsible should step ahead and say sorry, but they never done it, such as arrogant still there in their minds thinking they could repeat the same history again, that's why the wante to give homenage to the killer, as a simbol showing that their way is the best to live in society to create sufering and live with impunity.
That's why people in El Salvador is facing the same in a cicle that never end, because we can not comeback to the past, and repeat the same mistakes, we have to turn back and think about our past to conquer our own future without fear.
Those criminal, should be no longer acepted in society since they live as cowards for as long as justice is not done.
How come the tribunal in the USA, brought to justice those who killed the Maricknoll sisters and justice was serve to stop them?
Monseñor Romero was murdered denouncing the human rights abuses commited by the army and the gobernment worked very hard to stop the civil war, came to us, and now we should follow his example.

Peace and love my brothers.
Carlos X. said…
Msgr. Romero forgave his killers several times before the sacrilege, and as he lay dying, his last words were "May God have mercy on the assassins." This is not a question of Christian forgiveness, which Romero's followers are challenged to strive to. This is rather a question of justice. Wally is right that Romero's legacy calls out to his followers and challenges his followers just as much as it does to his detractors. What we cannot have is what El Visitador wants, which is to put a lot of onus on those who are sympathetic and to let his enemies literally (and figuratively, too) get away with murder. This position is so untenable that my heart sinks, as I lose faith in the good will of those who would propose it.
Anonymous said…
Perhaps people associate the intellectual author of the assassination Monsignor Romero with Roberto D'Aubuisson, one of the founders of ARENA who, given his brutality was rather antisocial. Torturing people can do that to a person.
El-Visitador said…
"which is to put a lot of onus on those who are sympathetic"

Hey, don't look at me.

I was trying to be helpful: those who love Monsignor should take care of his legacy and not let third parties hijack his image.

If no one wants to step forward and protect Monsignor's legacy, well, what can I say?

Carlos X. said…
That would be helpful, and the "San Romero" group is largely dedicated to that cause. Meanwhile, Msgr. Romero's legacy is more than a PR campaign to be managed. The three bullet points I provided, which call for justice as the predicate of real reconciliation in Salvadoran society are the heart of Msgr.'s legacy and all are invited to take part.
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