Friday, March 14, 2008

Rutilio Grande

Wednesday March 12 marked 31 years since the assassination of Father Rutilio Grande by the Salvadoran National Guard. Grande served in the parish of Los Aguilares, a town about 40 minutes Northwest of San Salvador. His interpretation of Liberation Theology inspired him to work toward creating Christian Communities that organize themselves to address their basic needs. His work, as well as his tendency to speak out against the injustices being committed by the government and social elite led to his death. On March 12, 1977, he was traveling with other Salvadorans in his car when they were gunned down by the Salvadoran National Guard. Rutilio, and two of his companions, Manual Solorzano, 72, and Nelson Rutilio Lemus, 16 were killed. Two other children traveling with the group were able to escape. (His assassination is depicted in the movie Romero with Raul Julia)
Rutilio Grande is significant in the story of El Salvador not only for preaching liberation theology and speaking out against the injustices being committed by the Salvadoran Government, but because he was the first (not the last) church official to be assassinated by that same government. His death has also gained the most notoriety as the act which “converted” Archbishop Oscar Romero to the side of the poor and liberation theology. Upon Rutilio’s death, Romero decreed that he would not perform a state function until the deaths were investigated. They never were and he never did. Three years later, Archbishop Romero would also be assassinated.

I went to the festivities with two of my co-workers, Erin and Danny. I found out on the way there that we would be participating in a pilgrimage between Aguilares and El Paisnal (where he is burried). Luckily, I had on decent walking shoes; unluckily, I did not have sunscreen and ended up a little pink. The total distance was only about 4k, I didn’t get to walk all of it because we had the SHARE vehicle and had to get it to El Paisnal so that we could get home later in the day.

The walk was actually quite pleasant. I always get excited at any opportunity to get out of the city and breathe air that is not filtered through exhaust fumes. Although much of the land is looking to be subdivided and developed, it is still primarily farm and ranch country complete with cows and chickens. I would guess that most of the participants were connected to one social organization or another. There was also a significant presence of gringo delegations. As is true with absolutely everything in El Salvador, there were political overtones made most notable by one man who walked through the march in the opposite direction holding an ARENA (far right party) card against his chest and a severe look upon his face. Most people just chuckled at him as he passed.

Anyway, about half way, I switched with Erin so that she could participate in the walk. We went to the mass and then hung out in the afternoon. We were leaving just as they were setting up for the Mario Funes speech. Mario Funes is the presidential candidate for the FMLN (left political party). I have a total political crush on him. He is a journalist. He is intelligent and critical and most importantly a step toward the middle. He is a sign of great hope for this bitterly divided country. He is stirring things up, to say the least. Things need to be stirred up, but the powers that be are not ones to step down without a fight. One of the fun tactics being used is that any time any foreigners attend a campaign speech, they end up with their faces across the far right leaning media outlets as proof that the FMLN is being run by foreign interests. Hence, Mario Funes coming, us leaving. This is about the third time that I have been SO close to getting to hear him speak but having to leave. I hope someone somewhere is appreciating the sacrifice.

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