A few years back would have been unlikely that Archbishop Romero would have been publicly memorialized by the Salvadoran state as a national hero. After all, the conservative right would never have endorsed a man who denounced the injustices that the state committed against the oppressed majority of Salvadorans. Instead, the right has focused on demonizing Romero and his cause, claiming that he fueled Marxist ideologies.
This villification of Archbishop Romero stems from the notion that he was a critic of the Salvadoran state in the early stages of the civil war. He urged the military to end human rights abuses and was an advocate of the poor. While his passion for justice and love for the poor have been widely recognized outside El Salvador (UN, pop culture, the Catholic Church, human rights groups), the story has been different in El Salvador. Perhaps this is because the scars of the war are still latent within the country, or perhaps it is because the healing process after the civil war involved a new beginning with a blank slate. Whatever the case, during my most recent visit I observed the way in which state institutions have come to recognize Archbishop Romero and his cause.
2009 was a monumental year. The former FMLN guerilla (now a political party) won the presidental election and began to recognize the voices that had been buried in mass graves that could testify to the human rights abuses that the Salvadoran state had staged (victims of the 1932 and El Mozote massacres). They recognized individuals who fought with the FMLN and whose histories had been “forgotten” in the official record, despite countless recounts that could attest to their existence (plan de atención a exguerrilleros). Finally, the state also assumed responsibility for the assassination of Archbishop Romero and his name could once again be pronounced, without the fear of being accused of treason against la patria.
History is a selective process, through which (un)conscious choices are made about what events outght to be represented. In this case, the left has indeed made some reparations by recognizing victims that were once made invisible by right-wing and repressive governments. Not just in light of Archbishop Romero, but also in erecting different monuments in memory of victims whose histories had been made invisible. I certainly commend the government for these actions, but also urge to look at history holistically and to recognize victims of social injustice in a holistic manner and not to get caught up in party politics, which can make other victims of social injustce invisible.