2014 Stanford Delegation

2014 Stanford Delegation
Stanford Delegation in the UCA Chapel

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Today, Tuesday, in El Salvador I learned a great deal about the thoughts of the people. I spent the first few days questioning humanity and wondering how the government could commit atrocious crimes and the people could see their position as fate. Today though I decided to personally step back and just listen to the thoughts that were vocalized by the speakers in order to learn more before I start making judgments and pondering about which I know nothing of. 
The first meeting of the day was with Suyapa Perez, a liberation theologian and professor at the UCA. I began the conversation by presenting one of my critiques of liberation theology as a question. My question was along the lines of "why do
Liberation Theologian Suyapa Perez
and students
liberation theologians use Catholicism to justify their demands when the same institution has been used to keep them subdued?" She answered masterfully by alluding to the history of liberation theology and deducing its purpose. The answer that I took from her response, which was rather lengthy, was that Salvadorans are emotionally and spiritually linked to the martyrs of their cause and do not want to depart the church because it is an integral part of life. This is something that I never understood and still do not. I'm able to grasp what this means but I can understand having an institution that I can't separate myself from. Suyapa also stated that Christianity was not initially a tool of oppression; rather it has been warped and interpreted differently for selfish purposes. Essentially, Christianity is not to blame for the way it has been used and abused. I'm not sure I agree with this statement because I think Christianity and religion in general have the common purpose of influencing thought (i.e. mental oppression). Regardless of my personal opinion, I appreciated the breadth and passion with which Suyapa responded to the queries. 
The next meeting we had was with Anita Ortiz, the sister of martyred Father Octavio Ortiz and a member of a local Christian base community. Though I learned a lot about the functions of base communities the most important take away was completely unrelated. By just listening and observing I was able to gain
Anita Ortiz with Stanford Group
fundamental insight into the minds of Salvadorans who are not necessarily intellectuals. I can now really see and understand the difference between intellectuals and the majority of the population. Catholicism is ingrained. In my opinion (and in not necessarily PC terms), Catholicism is a method of mind control. I came to this conclusion by observing how more educated persons were able to field tough questions about taboo subjects such as abortion, contraception, and LGBTQI rights. It is my opinion that intellectuals who can break from the mind control, even if only temporary, can see that thought surrounding these taboo topics is evolving and they are not taboo anymore. Anita seemed apprehensive when pressed by the delegation about abortion and the sexual and reproductive rights of women. Whether or not she personally agreed with the stances Catholicism takes she recognized that it was hard to discuss these issues with the public and she's even met resistance to thought contrary to Catholicism. This baffled me and left me with the following questions. If sex before marriage is sinful and frowned upon why is not abstinence as ingrained as the opinion on the use of contraceptives? How can some tenets be loosely enforced while others are so strictly enforced that it strangles even me?
The third and final meeting of the day was with Sister Peggy, the most interesting nun in the world, al Centro Arte para la Paz. She was probably the best story teller I've encountered because she was able to recount some of the most terrible experiences and find joy in them. Her dialogue was quite refreshing despite not
Sister Peggy with Prof. Tom Sheehan
evoking the mental confusion of previous discussions. What she did leave me with was a clear and concise definition of "solidaridad". She borrowed the definition from somewhere but essentially she defined it as the tenderness among/between people. I can not personally say I've experienced genuine solidarity in my 19 years...Actually, maybe I have been on the receiving end of solidarity but I don't recall ever interacting tenderly with others. I wonder what a world would be like if everyone understood solidarity in this way and equated it with love.
Cameron (Mateo) Holmes

1 comment:

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