Archive for the ‘Religion and Religious Holidays’ Category

32nd anniversary of Monseñor Romero’s assasination – 32 aniversario del asesinato del Monseñor Romero   Leave a comment

Yesterday, March 24, 2012, was the 32nd anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

The text with this picture reads, in my translation to English:

Follow the Savior [Christ] …”The church preaches from the poor and we shall never be ashamed to say: The church of the poor, because Christ wanted to put his cathedral of redemption among the poor.” – Monsenor Romero, December 24, 1978

We went to Metropolitan Cathedral, where Romero’s tomb is located, to pay our respects to this very revered man of El Salvador, yesterday.  New water fountains have been installed in the square in front of the church; children played in them, and one woman even used the water to wash her hands as she passed through.  This is the same church where a mosaic mural installed by artist Fernando Llort many years ago was removed last year, and caused a lot of controversy – before and after pics here in El

Monseñor Romero is a modern day Jesus to the people of El Salvador.  Almost anywhere throughout the country of El Salvador, upon entering someone’s home, you will see a picture of Monseñor Romero hanging on the wall of the living room, or at times, and this is often the case at the homes of people in the country, to see his picture proudly displayed outside, on the front patio/porch area.   He is a hero and human emblem of the struggling poor of El Salvador, and of Latin America.

Every year, Oscar Romero’s followers make a pilgrimage from where he was assassinated, in the chapel of the Divine Providence Hospital in Miramonte, San Salvador, to the Metropolitan Cathedral where his remains now lie.  One church, in the parish of Cristo Salvador, in the Mejicanos neighborhood of San Salvador, makes a special “way of the cross” (viacrucis) in his honor, and the night before his death marches through its 15 stations.

"We must rediscover the profound evangelical truth that we should serve the poor majorities" - Oscar Romero, April 9, 1978

When he first became Archbishop, people suspected Oscar Romero would continue with a conservative approach they had seen him demonstrate until then (and which was a consistent style among religious leaders in El Salvador, to ‘go along with’ the desires of the privileged), but he surprised many by becoming a staunch defender of the poor in the years before his death.  Romero was 62 years old when he was killed by death squads on March 24, 1980.

We entered the Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana de San Salvador) through a door on the left, descended a staircase into the basement, and entered an area where a series of tile mosaic pictures of deceased religious leaders hung up high.

Underneath the mosaic of Oscar Romero was a group of people surrounding his tomb.  Some were kneeling in prayer, some taking pictures, and others read material on and around his tomb.  As people came throughout the day, they left flowers, pictures, notes and messages, as seen here on the right – a note in large letters on orange paper says “No more Militiamen in power” (referring to the appointment of former military leaders to government national security positions).  On another note was written a sarcastic message, supposedly by Funes, apologizing for his recent errors.  A young man, who appeared to be a Salvadoran National visiting the country – they stick out like sore thumbs with expensive Levi jeans and smartphones –  was reading and then taking a picture of the note.  Candles were lit everywhere, and the gathering was peaceful.

A woman was finishing reading an homage to him as we approached, and the crowd applauded.   It was nearly 2pm, and the largest crowds had already come and gone.

Tomb of Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, decorated by visitors with palm leaves, flowers, and notes.

A visitor to the tomb, reading a newspaper article (Diario de Hoy) about his murder. The paper cost 30 cents at that time (.30 of one colon, the old currency. El Salvador began using the U.S. currency in 2001).

God as AntiDepressant   Leave a comment

This giant message, "Only Jesus Christ Saves," on a building in San Salvador just behind Juan Pablo II avenue, near the Tiendona market, can be seen far down the street.

Most Salvadorans are religious.   God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and religious holidays are taken seriously here.   What I like is their approach to religion, which feels like a natural part of their lives, and rather than being exclusive about their religion, they tend to be inclusive.

A number of people at my recent job are what I would consider to be “religious,” but they are not preachy, and do not appear critical of other people’s behavior.  To give an example, a group of us went out for drinks the other evening.  One of the young men who came out with us for beers was joking with a visiting gringa, asking if she would like him to find her a “Salvadoran” boyfriend, and even called a friend on his cell phone, giving her a chance to say ‘hello’ to him and break the ice.  Why not?   A bit later in the evening, he excused himself to go to, where but…?  A bible class!  (And on a Friday night, at that).

The visiting gringa and myself said this was not how we envision a “religious” person, because for us, they would unlikely ‘come out for drinks’ or have the same attitude he has. Our idea of a religious person in North America is of a more stern, uptight person. I’m sure this is a bit of a stereotype, but it’s pervasive.  An American coworker chimed in, adding that in her church, they recently started a new policy, unbenownst to her, so that on her visit to the states during Christmas, her mother quickly corrected her when she began to clap.  Clapping is no longer allowed in her church; the parishioners now wave their programs in the air silently, instead.  I wonder what the higher-ups in her church would think about the rock-n-roll music bellowing out of the Evangelical church next to my house every Sunday.  I figure if it keeps the young people coming, keep playing it.

Salvadoran people face daily obstacles we would never imagine – things like water only running 1-3 hours a day (or every other day), transportation craziness, inability to afford things most Americans would just “die” if they couldn’t have, the list goes on.  Yet they do not become depressed about this.  Their approach is to accept things they don’t have power over, and sidestep frequent dangers by adjusting their time schedules, routes, and even conversations. Despite these hardships they face, their belief in God does not waiver. Since most people here cannot afford a middle-class solution to depression (which often might be taking up a new hobby, seeing a psychologist on a regular basis, and/or consuming various pharmacopia some might consider ‘necessary’), their solution is simple:

God as Antidepressant

And it appears to be working. El Salvador ranked number 8 on the 2009 Happy Planet Index, with the United States ranking 114.  It does rank below the United States and other countries in the World Database of Happiness, but remains one of the happiest countries based on the World Values Survey (University of Michigan), positioned at 11th of 97 countries, while the U.S is 16th.

I won’t attribute all of the Salvadoran happiness to their religion, but I sure think it helps.  That, along with a positive attitude that’s not entwined with high expectations, much less of an attachment to material things, and a strong allegiance to family and ties to community, two reliable pillars one can lean on, that may help keep depression at bay.

Multi-Colored aqua and yellow Leaf-hopper El Salvador   3 comments

Moments after I see a passion vine hopper nymph (curious insect with a fluffy white tail), on the same plant I spot a multi-colored leaf-hopper.   I’d seen small green leaf-hoppers in the past.   They have a funny v-shaped physique, with the bulk of their body at their head and shoulders, narrowing out smaller part towards their tail.  They hop off of you when you touch them.

So this leaf hopper was a “tropical colored” one.  And about 2-3 times larger than your typical small, green, northern north american leaf hopper, I’d say 3/4 of an inch long.

The pictures don’t do him as much justice as seeing him live in person.  The greyish-blue areas seen in the pictures were more of a blue-green aqua color, and you can see the yellow of course.  He also sported a reddish color, in the middle of his back, in between the two wings.   CLICK the pic to ENLARGE.    This guy is just g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s.

Semana Santa Leftovers in El Salvador   2 comments

An effigy of Judas hangs from a tree like a lynched man, while schoolchildren play in the background.

These 2011 Semana Santa (Holy Week) leftovers were still hanging the Wednesday after Holy Week ended.  I couldn’t resist taking shots as I drove by.   A Semana Santa tradition in El Salvador that seems mischievous at the same time it’s religious is the tradition of hanging (ahorcando) Judas.  This is a re-enactment of what Judas actually did to himself, after he told the chief priests he had betrayed Jesus.  In many parts of Latin America, people will even burn a life-size rendition of Judas.  In El Salvador this takes place the Saturday (Sabado de Gloria) before Holy Week weeks ends on Easter, also known here as Santo Domingo.

Until I had met my husband,
I never heard of such a thing;
the U.S. tends to be much more
subdued in its religious
celebrations.The first Judas in red was
seen at a major crossroads
in Metayate, El Salvador.

Judas in yellow, down the road
near Amayo, in the
municipality of La Reina.

CLICK a pic to enlarge:

like I said: rather mischievous - underwear on the outside of his pants

Judas hangs on the tree in front of the schoolyard, like a lynched man

Holy Week carpets in El Salvador / Alfombras de Semana Santa en el Salvador   5 comments

Can you say COOL?

The carpets / alfombras of Semana Santa (Holy Week) seen in El Salvador and Latin America are a wonderful creative expression of spirituality.   The carpets are made of pigment colored salt or sawdust and are  ‘painted’ by teams of people who start working on them as early as midnight on Good Friday.   The photos speak for themselves.  Photos below were taken the morning of Good Friday in Los Planes de Renderos, San Salvador, El Salvador.  Unlike other places, where the carpets get wiped away by the religious processions of Good Friday (Viernes Santo), these are marked off with cones or tape and people walk around instead of on them, so they last through both the morning and evening processions, on display for at least 12 hours.

>> CLICK on any picture to enlarge <<

A picture of Christ – all in Salt!

The craftsman checks his work

Texture and dimension
…see the detail in Christ’s hand

Largest alfombra we saw

LEFT detail.

MIDDLE detail

Detail, RIGHT

The carpet quotes Luke 9:35   In Spanish:
Camino, Neocatecumenal….”Este es mi hijo, el [mi] elegido, escuchadle” La transfiguracion Lucas 9, 35


My favorite alfombra,
depicting Jesus and Romero

Romero is a modern day Jesus
for the Salvadoran people.

I love the detail, colors,
and cursive writing



It all starts with a drawing

And patience

Careful craftsmanship

Tinted hands

Close up look at the salt

Not all are religious pictures.

As I wrote this I realized boy did we get lucky.  A few sprinkles fell from the sky mid-day on Good Friday, but stopped, sparing the artwork so painstakingly created.  Saturday, just a day later – the sky belched out a POURING rain for two or more hours in the afternoon.

A couple links to other sites showing Good Friday carpets here:

Carpets in Antigua, by Shannon O’Donnell.

Carpets in El Salvador from 2008, by Hunnapuh.

History of Holy Week carpets – three theories.

Procession of the Way of the Cross / Procesión del Víacrucis (Vía Crucis)   Leave a comment

Nuns walk towards where procession will start, 9:30am

Here are photos of a few stations for the Way of the Cross processions on Good Friday in Los Planes de Renderos, San Salvador, El Salvador.  A morning procession took place, and in the evening, an even larger, more attended procession happened from 7:00pm – 10:00pm local time.

Click any photo to enlarge it.

This Viacrucis station was my favorite. Gorgeous colors and flowers

detail of viacrucis to the left

It was lovely how they sprinkled flowers in front of this viacrucis station.

Nice natural detail for this viacrucis with heliconia flowers and sawdust in front

more detail of viacrucis on the left

Information on the Stations of, or the Way of the Cross below (known in Spanish as the “Viacrucis” or “Estaciones de la Cruz” and also “Vía Dolorosa”)

Way of the cross – English.

Viacrucis (o Vía crucis) – Espanol

Here are videos of the processions as they took place in Los Planes de Renderos for 2010 and 2011.  Visit the 2010 one first, it’s more authentic with no music overlay, you can hear the people praying and chanting (and even Cicadas in the background!)  2011 is available also.  Both were shot by jucabuher (YouTube user name).

Saintweek Begins! Semana Santa Empieza en El Salvador !   Leave a comment

Festivities for Semana Santa in El Salvador (Holy/Saint week) began yesterday morning, and it was lovely.   Friday marked the start with Viernes de Dolores,  “Friday of Sorrows” or night of the altars*. has a page from Spain naming each day and calendar date.

Photo by CAMARO27, in post "Primer Viernes de Cuaresma" Feb 2010

I was at church without leaving the house.   I’ll explain:  in front of our house is an Evangelical church with large parochial school.  They were singing along starting with morning classes.   A church on the other side of the ravine, behind our house, was singing folk gospel songs all day and into the night, well past 10:00pm.

It was so wonderful to to hear such happy music emanating everywhere.

* People throughout El Salvador set up altars everywhere in devotion for the Vía Crucis – Way of the Cross, when Jesus walked to his crucifixion (National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi gives an explanation).  My mother-in-law set up a “Vía Cruz,” as they call it here, decorated with flowers and ornaments in front of her house.

Stay tuned for more posts…

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