Monday, May 25, 2015

Saint Oscar

NOTE: My use of the word "saint" in the title of this post is a personal expression of my sentiments regarding Oscar Romero. He is not yet considered a saint, though he was declared a martyr this February and was beatified (declared "blessed") last weekend. These are steps on the way to sainthood.

I will be showing Romero in the first session of my Geography of Latin America course tomorrow. Normally, I would reserve this for a bit later in the course, after we have had time for "scaffolding" so that the students know more of the context.

But Oscar Romero has been very much in the news over the past several days, and this news has particular resonance with our region of greater Boston, and with our university in particular. So we will begin our study of Latin America with this story, tragic as it is.

I have written about the martyred archbishop elsewhere on this blog, most notably on the occasion of President Obama's 2011 visit to El Salvador, which was a Lost Opportunity to speak against the atrocities of that period. Since then, our president has actually re-employed some of the Reagan-era facilitators of those crimes.

NPR has followed the story of Romero's beatification with a number of excellent reports. On Morning Edition of May 25, Carrie Kahn examines the rifts that continue within the Salvadoran church, while Renee Montagne and John Allen of the Boston Globe explain the emergence of liberation theology more broadly. Contrary to popular belief, Pope Francis was not a supporter of that movement when he himself was a bishop in Argentina, where his alignment within a similarly divided church was a cause for concern when his papacy was being considered. Carrie Kahn explores the Romero story further in an excellent interview with Scott Simon.

In Sunday's paper, the Globe's Evan Allen further explains the importance or Romero's beatification in the Salvadoran community of East Boston. Those connections have a lot to do with the tireless work of Rep. Joseph Moakley -- for whom the Moakley Center on our campus is named -- on behalf of Salvadoran refugees and migrants, and his role in ending Reagan's wars in the region. The Moakley Institute at Suffolk University maintains papers that cover that important work, and the late Congressman explains his work in El Congresista, a short documentary produced by the institute.

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