The wait was long but, today, there are only nine days left in the history of the universe during which we will refer to Oscar Romero simply as “Archbishop Romero.” It will be “Blessed Oscar Romero” after May 23 and that date is so close that workers have started to put up the dais that will be used for the beatification ceremony (photo). The choir that will sing during their ceremony is in their final rehearsals and the finishing touches are being put on all the plans for the event.
The objective of this post is simple: to help you pick the best spot to watch the ceremony from if you will be in San Salvador for the beatification. There will be large crowds. We don’t know exactly how many people will show up, but the size of the theater of action will be larger than New York City’s Central Park. That is the size of the area that will be closed off to traffic, though the crowds will be concentrated mainly on Alameda Roosevelt, which runs west from Downtown San Salvador to the Divine Savior Plaza where the beatification will take place, and on Paseo General Escalon which runs further west from Divine Savior to a roundabout called Redondel Masferrer. There are also two offshoots north and south from Divine Savior Plaza, making the figure of a large, sideways cross. Throughout this expanse, you can watch the ceremony on large television screens and Eucharistic stations will be available as well.
What are the choice spots? I personally am liking the part of the scheme that organizers are calling “Sector K.” [Maps.] This is the eastern-most end of the west-to-east transverse, where Alameda Roosevelt is bounded by Rosales Hospital on the north and Cuscatlan Park on the south. The organizers have labeled the various spaces based on how crowded they will be: red is the most crowded, orange less so, yellow less crowded, and green is the most sparse. Sector K is rated yellow. I also like it because it’s by Cuscatlan Park, which can provide a cool, shady spot in a pinch. Plus, you can check out the Monument to Memory and Truth, with its Vietnam Wall-like listing of civil war victims (including Archbishop Romero). If you or someone you are traveling with is disabled, there will be special facilities provided at Magico Gonzalez stadium, which is in Sector J, which is immediately west of Sector K. Being at the edge closest to downtown, this may also be the easiest place to get in and out of the event zone from.
What—you’re feeling more adventurous? Then, by all means, head to the place they are calling “Ground Zero”—the Divine Savior Plaza and environs. If you are lucky enough to have an invitation, because you are a member of the clergy or a head of state, a member of the communities selected to represent those Romero cared about, a member of the press or of a registered foreign delegation, then you will be lucky enough to be among the 6,000 or so who will be placed on the monument’s grounds (“Sector A”). Good luck getting in and out of the area during the ceremony, which runs from about 7 am to 1 pm! If you don’t have a VIP invite, you can still muscle your way into the surrounding streets, where over 60,000 souls will be tightly packed around the square (“Sector F”). A better option might be the northern and southern offshoots from the Plaza (“Sectors E and G”). I personally like Sector G (to the North) because it has access to San Jose de la Montana Seminary, where all the priests will go, and to the Divine Providence Hospital where Archbishop Romero lived and died, further afield.
A final assumption: you’re not really all that interested in the Church’s massive Romero fest, but you want to say you were there for the historic event. You just want to check it out. In that case, “Sector B” might be for you. This is the western-most run of Paseo General Escalon, heading up towards the San Salvador volcano. This is the only part of the grid that organizers have labeled in green with respect to crowding—it will be pretty sparse. You will be behind the beatification ceremony (the altar will be facing east), but you can still watch on the giant television screens found here, as well. When it comes time to go, or if you decide to check out early, it should not be difficult to get out from this way, but you will be further from everything.
Final tips, check out the maps, and pick your spot now. (Detailed diagrams are also found on the Beatification’s Flickr photostream.) It may be difficult to find assistance on the appointed day. Businesses will be closed, as San Salvador residents will have a paid day off on Friday and Saturday; while all Salvadorans will be off from work on Saturday, the day of the event.
In the meantime, we will continue to monitor developments and provide a Thursday update regarding the ongoing beatification plans. Well, there is only one left ...
No. 1 Theologians voted, now what?
No. 2 Meet Card. Amato and Archb. Paglia
No. 3 Preview of Romero Week in London
No. 4 After decree signed, site selected
No. 5 Salvadoran Church-State coordinators
No. 6 The beatification date I preferred
No. 7 Confirmation of the site
No. 8 Why Salvador del Mundo was chosen
No. 9 Online information sources
No. 10 March 24—35th anniversary preview
No. 11 A dress rehearsal for the ceremony
No. 12 “Memo to Journalists”
No. 13 Services and information for visitors
No. 14 Reasons to go to the beatification
No. 15 Ceremony planning and schedule
No. 16 Attendance
No. 17 You are here!
No. 18 How to watch the beatification remotely