Orbiting Dicta

Journey to El Salvador


El Salvador, named for Jesus, is geographically the smallest country in Central America.  About the size of Massachusetts, it lies on the Pacific coast – the only country in Central America without an Atlantic seaboard.  The population is about 7 million, making El Salvador one of the most densely inhabited areas in the Americas.  A democratic republic, following decades of  military rule and a terrible civil war from 1980-92 that resulted in the death of 75,000 people (mostly the rural and urban poor), this nation has occupied a large place in the world’s attention – especially among Catholic Christians (El Salvador is about 50% Catholic) who keenly recall the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980, the rape and murder of four American missionary sisters and a young lay volunteer in the same year, and the assassination of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter by a military death squad at the Jesuit University of Central America in 1989.

In just over a week, El Salvador will experience a presidential election in which power may pass from the long-dominant ARENA party to the more liberal FMLN party.  However the election goes, it will mark a great step forward in El Salvador’s political development.  Teams from a number of countries are streaming into the little country to observe and monitor the elections.  Although without authority to deter or prosecute electoral fraud, the sheer presence of thousands of volunteers, most of them college students, will go far to assure a free and open election.

I will be accompanying one of these teams from Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois.  The 11-day trip promises to be an exciting and demanding adventure.  I will not be able to send any reports during the trip, but I shall post some observations when I return.