Resurrection in El Salvador:
Lay Flat and Strum Your Guitar
|Troubadours carry the peoples' message with music.|
Gathering at a hotel, we enjoy a trio of guitarists. They are "100% popular" (a term for anything perfectly in tune with the people's struggle). Enjoying them, I thought of the guerillas who once laid flat on the floors of their shacks under flying bullets. Strumming guitars quietly on their belly, they sang forbidden songs. Music is the horse that carries the words of poems — weapons of a peoples' irrepressible spirit.
Listening to their music — love songs to their country — I consider the ongoing struggle. While troubadours sing of Christ's preferential option (special love for) the poor, the forces of neo-liberalism relentlessly restructure society. Advocates of the people are like children hugging each other as a volcano erupts. Seemingly doomed. All the while, slender Latino fingers crawl between the frets like guerillas in the jungle. Not running from the forces of globalization but courageously engaging them.
They sing "our way of life is being erased...no more huevos picante, we now have omelets...no more colones, we now have dollars." They wonder musically, "How can a combo meal at a fast food chain cost $8 while $20 gathered at church feeds 200 hungry mouths. Why did God put me here?"
Behind me sits Fernando Cardenal — white and grandfatherly in his well-worn blue jeans. As the minister of education of Nicaragua's revolutionary Sandinista government back in the 1980s, he fought the USA and lost. Today his country — the revolution purged from its economy — is even poorer than El Salvador. But his bright eyes nod to the beat and message of this new generation's call to action.
Wrapping up my El Salvador visit with this inspirational concert, I considered how the superstars of non-violence (Ghandi, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Oscar Romero) all seem to get shot. Are the pacifists losers? I'm a competitive person and I don't like this. My 1988 visit to Central America was filled with hope. I came again after the defeat of people's movements in both El Salvador and Nicaragua in 1991. The tide had turned and I wondered how the spirit of the people's movements — so exuberant just two years before — would fare after the American victories in their domestic struggles. Now, in 2005, after 14 years of neo-liberalism it is clear, there's only one game in town. Sure, Romero lives...and Jesus lives. And half the world is trying to live too...on $2 a day. As a Christian, I like to see religion function as a liberator rather than an opiate. Perhaps that's why I am so enamored with liberation theology in Central America.
The troubadours continue, "It's not easy to see God in the child who cleans the windshields at a San Salvador intersection...but we must."