Thursday, November 06, 2008

Centro Monseñor Romero in San Salvador, El Salvador

Hidden away on the campus of the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador is a poignant reminder of the repression and violence that gripped El Salvador during the 1970's and 1980's. The Centro Monseñor Romero is dedicated to Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in 1980 because of his opposition to El Salvador's military dictatorship. This small museum also honours six Jesuit priests plus their maid and her daughter who were all slaughtered at the center by the Salvadoran army in 1989.

A young law student names Mauricio was kind enough to show my around the Centro Monseñor Romero during a recent visit. I was impressed by Mauricio's earnestness and knowledge of events that he couldn't possibly remember. We first examined historic photographs and floor-to-ceiling glass display cases containing memorabilia that included Archbishop Romero's vestments and personal effects, as well as clothing that had belonged to the slain priests. Mauricio then led me to a courtyard, now a tranquil rose garden, where four of the priests' bodies were found.

Finally, Mauricio ushered me into a room with a table holding a pile of photo albums. Mauricio warned me that the pictures were very graphic. He was right. Inside the albums were horrific images of the murder victims. Some of the cadavers had been so badly mutilated that they were no longer recognizable as human beings. Gruesome as the photographs were, I found it encouraging that they were on public display, evidence of how far long-suffering El Salvador has come since its brutal civil war ended in 1992.

The Centro Monseñor Romero is open 8 am to noon and 2 pm to 6 pm, Monday to Friday; and 8am to 11:30am on Saturdays. Admission is free.

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