Corpses that preach

Óscar Romero and the martyred priests of El Salvador

Authored by: Mandy Rodgers-Gates

The Routledge Handbook of Death and the Afterlife

Print publication date:  June  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138682160
eBook ISBN: 9781315545349
Adobe ISBN:


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El Salvador’s history is one marked by a legacy of violence, but also by the witness of those who seek to transform that violence through their sacrifice. The ongoing presence of the dead through the remembering of the community impacts current conversations about violence in present-day El Salvador. This chapter examines the memorializing of the Salvadoran martyrs as interpreted through their bodies, the location of their death, and their communities. The chapter engages current examples of El Salvador’s memorializing of Archbishop Óscar Romero and other victims, while highlighting Romero’s own interpretation of the martyred dead, particularly the six priests killed during his three years as archbishop. Through reflections on body, place, and community, Romero narrates the priests as both victims and victors, who thus simultaneously display the unjust actions of the persecutors as well as the priests’ own virtue. In doing so, Romero re-interprets the violence, refuting the government’s and media’s interpretations, and offers the martyrs as models for the living, who should be imitated. Recently, the Salvadoran Church has taken up again the martyrs as a model for the living in the face of violence.

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