Thirty years ago this weekend, a horrific massacre began in a little town called El Mozote in El Salvador. Over the course of three days, more than 800 people were killed, half of them under the age of 12. A woman named Rufina Amaya was able to hide under some bushes, pretending to be dead. As she listened to the voices of her own children as they were killed, knowing that to try to rescue them would be death for her as well, she told God that if she survived, she would tell the world what happened.
She did survive, and eventually was able to tell her story to the UN. They sent a team to investigate, and found everything exactly as she said. The children had been herded into the rectory and killed there. Others were where she said they would be. Among the remains were bullet casings that were stamped "Made in Missouri." The leaders of that massacre were trained at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. Our tax dollars paid for the weapons. We need to know about El Mozote and all the evils that have been done in our name, with our money.
This past January I visited El Mozote with my friends Ruth, Yani, Fabiola, Bernhard and Eglantina (some of you might remember Ruth, Bernhard and Tina, as they were in Rochester for my ordination). We saw the memorial to the victims at El Mozote. Rufina Amaya is buried there (she died a few years ago after years of telling her story to the world). The memorial is beautiful. There's a statue of a family, and lots of flowers, and plaques with the names of the victims. Over by the church is a garden in memory of the children, with a beautiful mural of children playing. On the other side of the church there is a mural of the hopes and dreams of the people who live there, now. For many years it was a ghost town, but now the houses are lived in. The mural on the church shows a school, a hospital, children playing and learning and using computers. There's a surprising amount of hope, there. As we drove away, I noticed the name of the pupuseria in the center of town. Pupusas are wonderful stuffed tortillas, sort of the hamburger of El Salvador, and usually the little stores where they are sold are named after their owners. Not this one, though. The pupuseria in El Mozote is named "Pupuseria Fe y Esperanza." Faith and Hope.
This coming Monday, December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadelupe, a group of us will hold a demonstration in front of the Federal Building at 4 pm. Please join us if you like. It's all tied together. Our Lady of Guadelupe appeared to a man named Juan Diego just ten years after the Aztec conquest. Note how beaten the native people were: Juan Diego is a Spanish name. He'd even lost his Nahuatl name. This feminine image of God spoke to him in his own language, using the religious symbols he had grown up with. She had dark skin, like him, and spoke to him with respect. The memory of her appearance (and it doesn't matter at all if there was a literal, factual appearance. God is present in the story) has been a source of strength and hope to people in Mexico and Central America ever since. There is a home altar in our little migrant community with a big picture of her.
Let's celebrate her feast day by speaking out for the people she came to visit - a people that has suffered, over and over and over again, and continues to suffer indignity, hatred, isolation and poverty, today.
Let's be a light! And may you be surrounded by light in this season of hope.
Blessings and love to all,
Our friend Gustavo Monzone is looking for funds to help him return to Mexico to work at the Catholic Worker house called Casa Calibri. He used up his savings traveling around the US talking about Casa Calibri and raising funds for a truck for them (Casa Calibri provides overnight shelter to people who come to their little town to visit the health clinic there, so that they don't have to walk back to their own villages that same day). If you'd like to send him some money, his address is 1323 North Ave. 56, Los Angeles. CA 90042
Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620