Friday, February 24, 2012

Whitewash

San Salvador's Cathedral is a national gathering place, the site of massacres in the 1980s during the Salvadoran Civil War, the grave of murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero, the center for the Catholic community of El Salvador.  And until recently it was graced with a tile mural by Salvadoran artist Fernando Llort, with vivid and striking images of the people and the country.

In December, right after Christmas, this famous mural was demolished by order of the Cathedral authorities, without notice to the artist or to the people.  The reason given was that pieces of the mosaic were falling off, that tiles had become discolored in the sun and could not be replaced because new pieces would not match the existing ones.  The Archbishop said that an engineering and architectural firm working with the Archdiocese had recommended removing the mural.

To me it is a great sorrow that the church authorities destroyed this mural so quickly, so lightly.  Where Llort's bright tiles once brought life to the cathedral's facade, there's now a blank, whitewashed wall. 

Whitewashing the past, covering up history and art, has been too much the way of life in El Salvador.  The wounds from the Civil War still bleed - you will hear about them early in any conversation with a Salvadoran over 30 - because there has never been the kind of national process of memory and reconciliation that could bring healing.  Now the San Salvador Cathedral has lost its historical memory and imagery: another wound, another whitewashing.

1 comment:

  1. Susan
    Thanks very much for this post! Well-said!
    max

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