Monday, August 29, 2011

As reprinted in Tim's El Salvador Blog

According to a front page story in a Salvadoran newspaper, T-shirts bearing the likeness of Archbishop Romero are second only to those with the emblems of the most popular soccer teams in terms of sales in El Salvador, and the reporters were able to visit six factories churning out Romero tees for the local markets. Jaime Ulises Marinero, Empleos, negocios e instrumentalización ideológica en nombre de Monseñor Romero [Jobs, businesses and ideological manipulation in the name of Archbishop Romero], LA PÁGINA, August 29, 2011. The article cited a merchant in a downtown market who said that, “The image of Archbishop Romero is imposing. It is rare these days to find a Christmas crèche that does not include his figurine. The people demand it.” The story quoted an economist as saying that at least a thousand Salvadorans earn their living from working at ONG’s bearing Romero’s name.

Archbishop Romero also is present in people’s conscience as El Salvador faces a wave of gang related violence. A recent piece in an influential paper cataloguing the bloodshed began with a haunting Romero quote: “The name of the violence will change,” Romero had said, “but there will always be violence as long as we do not change the root that sprouts such horrendous things into our reality.” Roberto Valencia, Yo Violada [I, violated], EL FARO, July 24, 2011. More recently, the same newspaper published an extended interview with Archbishop Romero’s younger brother, Gaspar.  Roberto Valencia and Mauro Arias, “Como decía mi hermano, monseñor Romero: yo quisiera cumplida y pronta justicia” ["As my brother, Archbishop Romero, used to say—I should like complete and prompt justice"], EL FARO, August 8, 2010. Coming around the time of Romero’s would-be 94th birthday, and the Salvadoran Supreme Court’s ruling that the suspects of the 1989 Jesuit Massacre in San Salvador need not be held for extradition, the sentiment had special resonance.  Gaspar Romero also provided a prophetic message from the archbishop on the current crisis: “he told me, ‘The war cannot be prevented ... what is coming will be terrible, but what comes after the war will be even worse’.”

But, it isn’t only in El Salvador that Romero is remembered. In a new documentary called “El cielo abierto” ["The Open Sky"] (click here for trailer—in Spanish), Mexican filmmaker Everardo Gonzalez attempts to paint a fresh depiction of Archbishop Romero’s story. “Gonzalez paints an absorbing portrait of the prelate's exceptional heroism,” states one review, “using a large number of talking heads, edited together with a wealth of chilling images.” The Open Sky, reviewed by Jay Weissberg, VARIETY magazine, May 26, 2011. And in Italy, Ettore Masina has published a third edition of his 1996 original biography, “L'arcivescovo deve morire” ["The Archbishop Must Die"]. Masina paints Romero as a meek man, armed with an iron will, who conducts a lonely struggle against the indifference and even hostility of his fellow churchmen, to denounce the massacres of his people. Matteo Tonelli, “L'uomo mite che spaventò i violenti” ["The meek man who frightened the violent"], REPUBBLICA (Rome), June 27, 2011.

Throughout the year, this blog has discussed important developments in the understanding of Romero stemming from the publication of previously unknown photographs, of previously unpublished Romero articles and op eds, from a Wikileaks cable, and from historic U.S. Embassy cables published this year. All together, all the activities and developments surrounding Archbishop Romero (oh, and did we mention that a U.S. president visited Romero’s grave this year?) underscore that something is happening with Romero: his figure is seeping into the popular imagination in ways that we may not fully realize.
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