Romero inspires art and devotion in New York

By Diana Vidal / Carmen Rodríguez / Carmen Molina T.

It's september 2018 and Salvadoran committees in New York accelerate preparations to contribute to the celebration for the canonization of the archbishop martyr of El Salvador, Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero.

Both in Manhattan and in the suburbs where a large number of Salvadorans live - close to half a million, according to official estimates- works of art like songs are being prepared, murals, plazas, as well as liturgical celebrations that coincide with the elevation to the altars of Romero, the 14 October at the Vatican.

And Brentwood, Long Island, Salvadoran Mario Crespo, member of the youth group of Santa Ana Parish, prepares for a pilgrimage to Rome with the official entourage of the Diocese of Rockville Center.

Monsignor Romero's canonization has inspired New York parishioners and artists, who have joined efforts to paint murals, build a plaza and launch videos of original songs dedicated to his memory and legacy.

"Prophet of our land, prophet of our time, that you give your whole life for peace and justice. You are no longer from El Salvador, your voice is everywhere, because everywhere there is poverty and inequality ”, recites the young Crespo. It is the first verses of the musical piece "Monseñor Romero", by the Ecuadorian singer-songwriter Juan Morales, who in his opinion describe the essence of the work carried out by the martyr bishop and inspire new generations to follow his example.

Mario Crespo, a young Salvadoran pilgrim
Mario Crespo, a young Salvadoran pilgrim who will travel to the Vatican, to witness the canonization of Monsignor Romero, who contemplates a picture.
Photo: Diana Aguilar.

Crespo has 30 years, He has been working with the youth of his Parish since November 2009 and organizes each year the celebration of the Virgin of Peace, patron saint of salvadorans. He is from the Municipality of Lolotique, San Miguel, eastern department of the country where Monsignor Romero was also born. "My admiration for Monsignor Romero was born there when I was 15 years old and was part of the Missionary Youth of the Diocese of Santiago de María, bishopric of which Monsignor was in charge in the year of 1974 and where for me, began its intense work in favor of the peasants in the area. Always, In March, we commemorated his death, we made marches, processions, Masses and we were told about the leadership that he had to attract people to his homilies ”, declares.

Crespo affirms that his inspiration for the work of Monsignor Romero was born in the family, where they have always had that vision of service to those most in need; for this reason he is happy to be part of the group that will attend the canonization. "I am happy that they give the title of Saint to Monsignor and to be present that day. The town bishop - as many call him- it was not left or right, he was only fighting for the poor as the mission of Jesus Christ on earth. He became the voice of the voiceless, denounced social injustices, was humanitarian, a good Samaritan ", Add.

For the young pilgrim, Monsignor is not just Salvadorans. He remembers that when he joined religious activities in the United States, people identified him as being from the land of Romero.. The diocese to which he belongs is the sixth largest in the United States.

"He died announcing Christ, that was his greatest wealth. Nor the bullets, nor hatred could silence the voice of Monsignor. As the Juan Morales song says, he lives in the heart of the oppressed peoples, live where peace and justice are lacking, forever Monsignor will be that witness of Christ, that crier of freedom ", Crespo ends, who claims to be ready to start his journey to the apostolic see.

A mural and a new song

In Manhattan, devotion to Monsignor Romero has inspired the creation of a mural, which will be unveiled a day before the canonization, inside the Our Lady of Guadalupe church.

The rector of the church, Santiago Rubio, ceded a space for the elaboration of the mural at the request of the consul general of El Salvador in Manhattan, José Vicente Chinchilla. Once finished, the work will measure 70 x 114 inches and its central element is the figure of Romero releasing a dove of peace, surrounded by people, girls and boys; contains other symbolic elements such as flowers, the silhouette of the Statue of Liberty and that of the Divine Savior of the World, patron saint of El Salvador.

The artists called for this tribute are not just Salvadorans; the group is made up of Gerardo Sierra and Reynaldo Pardo (Colombian), Fabian Cortés (Mexican) and the Salvadorans Walter Dionisio, Karla Argueta, Saúl López, Jorge Guzmán and Aracely Sánchez.

Salvadoran singer-songwriter Oscar Platt
Salvadoran singer-songwriter Oscar Platt composed the song “El Monseñor”, in honor of the canonization of Blessed Óscar Arnulfo Romero. The video was filmed in Los Angeles and New York.
Photo: Lester Platt Productions.

Another of the Salvadoran artists living in the area, Oscar Flat, has joined the celebration for the elevation of Romero to the altars. Her song titled “El Monseñor” features a video that was recorded in Los Angeles and New York and released in June 2018. Currently it already has more than 100,000 reproductions on the YouTube platform.

In the letter, Platt narrates some of the most important passages in the life of the prelate, since his birth in Ciudad Barrios, the murder of his friend, the priest Rutilio Grande and the call of his vocation: "Fight dragons".

The song “El Monseñor” tells passages from the life of Óscar Arnulfo Romero
The song “El Monseñor” tells passages from the life of Óscar Arnulfo Romero in El Salvador, from birth, murder and elevation to the altars of the Catholic Church.
Photo: Lester Platt Productions.

The lyrics and music are original from Platt. The video was in charge of his son, Lester Platt, and the production credits include Robb Hutzal and Double Moon International.

Plaza and sculpture "traveler"

Salvadoran Independent New York Foundation, the Consulate General of El Salvador on Long Island and the pastor of St. Luke's Church in Brentwood, Christopher Martin, they came together to design and build a plaza called “Monsignor Óscar Arnulfo Romero” in the town of Brentwood, Long Island.

Sculpture of Monsignor Óscar Arnulfo Romero
Sculpture of Monsignor Óscar Arnulfo Romero elaborated in the Colonial Nursery, in El Salvador, which will be placed in a commemorative square next to the San Lucas Church, and Brentwood, New York. The work was planned by Salvadoran parishioners and businessmen. Photo: Carmen Rodriguez.

According to Ernesto Trejo, director of the first organization, the idea of ​​building a physical space to honor the work that the martyred bishop did in El Salvador in favor of the most needy, emerged at the beginning of 2016.

"I am a parishioner of Iglesia San Lucas and, since the year 2006, every 24 of March, We commemorate the death of Monsignor Romero with a mass and reflect on his commitment to denounce social injustice. That is why we talked with Father Cristóbal since it became known that they were going to make Monsignor a Saint and we proposed to him along with the Consul General of Long Island, Miguel Alas, build a plaza at the back of the Church, because there is a very large space ”

At the beginning of 2018, The proposal of the work was presented to a group of Salvadoran businessmen who made it their own, said the Salvadoran consul. "There are many involved. We have the construction engineer 3J SITE DEVELOPMENT CORP., Jorge Luis Moreira, who is in charge of the design and construction of the plaza, parishioners of the Church who will maintain the work after its completion; the law firm Palacios Law Group that will finance its construction, the Independent Salvador Committee will donate the full-body sculpture of Monsignor Romero and we as Consulate are taking steps to transfer the figure from El Salvador to New York ”.

Trejo says that a Salvadoran priest recommended the Santos family, owner of the Colonial Nursery, in whose workshop sculptures and other ornaments are made, to make the sculpture of the martyr bishop.

Sculpture of Monsignor Óscar Arnulfo Romero
Sculpture of Monsignor Óscar Arnulfo Romero, killed on 24 March 1980 in El Salvador, to be placed in a memorial plaza for canonization at St. Luke's Church in Brentwood, New York.

The work weighs 250 pounds, approximately, and measure 1.25 meters. It was handmade with cement and marble powder, he has a crucifix in his right hand and a Bible in his left hand. It was made in August 2018 by a member of the Santos family, who took a month to do it. "We are very proud and believe that it is a blessing that they have sought us. It is definitely an award for us as Salvadorans that our Monsignor Romero walks around the world, he was a man of peace and we consider that with each of our pieces, his word and his legacy extends ”, indicated Rosario Molina de Santos, co-owner of the Colonial Nursery.

This business, which has more than 40 years of experience, has carved many sculptures of Rosemary in cement and marble for churches, offices and public spaces of the different departments of El Salvador. The work is expected to be transported to New York in the coming weeks..

To Consul Alas, Monsignor is not a figure admired only by Salvadorans and the Catholic Church, it is also a reference for the Anglican and Lutheran Church, among other, for its incidence, their commitment and their experience of the word of God. "This physical work will allow the community to constantly remember him and there is a place where he can be honored. The plaza will serve not only as a family recreation area but also as a place of contemplation for this defender of the values ​​of the Gospel ”, pointed.

Sculpture of Monsignor Romero will be placed in a commemorative square next to the Church of San Lucas, and Brentwood, New York.
Sculpture of Monsignor Óscar Arnulfo Romero made in the Colonial Nursery workshop, in El Salvador, which will be placed in a commemorative square next to the San Lucas Church, and Brentwood, New York.
Photo: Carmen Rodriguez.

He added that the design of the square is circular since it is geometrically identifiable in the urban framework; includes a fountain in the center of which a pillar will emerge to support the sculpture of Monsignor Romero. The squares are the quintessential center of urban life as they become unique and suitable spaces that help maintain historical memory, Indian.

The inauguration of the “Monsignor Óscar Arnulfo Romero” square is scheduled for the same day that the act of canonization will take place in Rome.