"Monsignor Romero lives in the hearts of the people," chanted the crowd as it processed through the heart of San Salvador toward the Metropolitan Cathedral, while a military helicopter hovered overhead. Close to 10,000 Salvadorans, many of them from the country's poorest communities, joined in the "pilgrimage for peace and democracy" on March 24 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
The march was the first public expression of its kind since the guerrilla offensive in November, and it demonstrated once again that the Salvadorans are a resurrection people. The human rights situation had sharply deteriorated in the wake of the offensive, as Salvadoran government forces stepped up their campaign to silence their perceived enemies. What little political and democratic opening existed before the offensive was effectively slammed shut. And the government-imposed state of siege (which remained in effect until mid-April) made the work of the church and other humanitarian institutions virtually impossible.
Yet the "popular movement" for peace and justice in El Salvador, which the government did everything in its power to decapitate following the offensive, will not stay down. Like the lyrics express in the most popular song for peace in El Salvador ("The Blue Sombrero"), the people are still pursuing "the fruit of those who have fallen." And they will "push forward the sun to bring about the dawn."
Representatives of the National Debate for Peace in El Salvador, which called for the Romero procession, did not ask the government's permission to hold the event, as required under the state of siege. They simply announced beforehand that it would take place and invited members of the armed forces to participate as "citizens."