Romero (1989) 




Director:  John Duigan

Starring:  Raul Julia (archbishop Romero), Harold Gould (Francisco Galedo), Tony Plana (Father Manuel Morantes), Richard Jordan (Rutillio Grande), Ana Alicia (Arista Zelada),  Eddie Velez (Lt. Columa),  Aleljandro Bracho (Father Alfonzo Osuña),  Lucy Reina (Lucia),  Al Ruscio (Bishop Estrada),  Tony Perez (Father Rafael Villez),  Robert Viharo (Col. Ernesto Dorio),  Harold Cannon (Gen. Humberto),  Claudio Brook (Bishop Flores).



Very good film.  Raul Julia gives a wonderful performance as Archbishop Romero of El Salvador. 

The situation in El Salvador was terrible. The right-wing military dictatorship had the houses of the sharecroppers burned; the military blocked potential voters from the polls; the military opened fire on oppositional political gatherings; allowed no freedom speech; engaged in torture of political dissidents; and made people simply disappear.

In this terrible situation, a group of Catholic priests start to side with the poor and help them in their struggle with the military dictatorship (part of a movement known as Liberation Theology).  When the movie starts, Rome is looking for a new archbishop.  The politically active priests all agree that the worst possible candidate for the post would be Romero, a mouse of a man who fiddles while El Salvador burns.

But it is Romero who is given the position. The oligarchy is happy because they believe that Romero will follow their lead and embrace the status quo. And true to his nature, Romero wants to perform his job in a quiet, conservative manner.     

But something happens to change Romero's philosophy.  The military dictatorship starts torturing and killing priests.  Romero's friend, Rutillio Grande, is the first, but not the last, to be assassinated.  As the atrocities mount up, Romero begins to speak out more and more.  He speaks out so much that he makes himself an enemy of the military dictatorship.  The conservative Salvadorans respond with phrases such as "Be a patriot, kill a priests" and accusations that the priests are communist in cahoots with the leftist terrorists.  The military does much worse.  

In the movie there is that ever present question of what will happen to Romero.  Will he be beaten up, tortured, wounded or assassinated? 


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Historical Background:

Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez

1917 (August 15)  --  Romero born in Ciudad Barrios, the second of eight children.

1929  --  at age 12, he worked as an apprentice carpenter.

1931  --  he studied at the San Miguel seminary for six years.  He had to stop his studies to work in a gold mine for three months, because the family needed the money. 

1937  --  he studied at another seminary in San Salvador for 7 months.

He was next sent to Rome to study theology at the Gregorian University.

1942 (April 4)  --  he was ordained a priest.  He then began to study for a doctorate in ascetic theology. 

1943  --  World War II forced him to abandon his studies and return to El Salvador.

He worked for over 20 years in San Miguel.  He later was the Rector of the inter-diocese seminary in San Salvador.

1966  --  he was Secretary of the Episcopal Conference for El Salvador. In addition, he was Director of Orientation, a conservative, catholic newspaper.

1970  --  assistant Bishop to Luis Chávez y González.

1974 (December)  --  Bishop of the Diocese of Santiago de María.

1977 (Feb.3)  --  archbishop of San Salvador. Those priests that supported liberation theology with its commitment to the poor were disappointed by this appointment. 

1977 (March 12)  --  Romero's good friend, Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande, was assassinated.  The government of Arturo Armando Molina ignored Romero's call for an investigation of the murder.  Romero's eyes were suddenly noticing the true horrors present in his country.  He spoke out against the ever present poverty, social injustice, assassination and torture. 

1979  --  he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

1979 (October 15) to 1982 (May 2)  --  the Revolutionary Government Junta ruled El Salvador.  It was made up of two colonels, Adolfo Arnaldo Majano Ramo and Jaime Abudl Gutiérrez AvendaZo, and three civilians, Guillermo Ungo, Mario Antonio Andino and Román Mayorga Quirós.

1980  --  Romero spoke out against US military aid to the new government and expressed his opinions in a letter to President Jimmy Carter, but Carter was only concerned that El Salvador might become another Nicaragua.  

1980 (Feb.)  --  he was given an honorary doctorate by the Catholic University of Leuven.  In Europe to receive this honor he met Pope John Paul II and expressed his belief that it was not right to support the government in El Salvador because it legitimized terror and assassinations.

Major Roberto D'Aubuisson ordered the killing of Romero.  While delivering a sermon that emphasized that soldiers should disobey orders that violated basic human rights, he was shot and killed.  The actual assassins were members of the Salvadoran death squads, including two graduates of the US-run School of the Americas.  

1981 (Sept.)  --  Major Roberto D'Aubuisson founded the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA).

1982-1984  --  Álvaro Alfredo Magaña Borja was the President of El Salvador.  The US refused to honor his election because he was connected to the country's connection with Death Squads.

1984-1989  --  José Napoleón Duarte Fuentes, who had led the civil-military Revolutionary Government Junta, was the President of El Salvador. Under President Ronald Reagan, Duarte became the symbol of anti-communism in Latin America.

1989  --  the rightist Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) came to power and still rules today.

1989 (June 1) to 1994 (June 1)  --  Alfredo Cristiani Burkard, a member of the rightist ARENA, was the President of El Salvador.

1989 (Nov. 15)  --  an international scandal created when the army killed 6 Jesuit priests and their 2 servants.

1980-1989  --  the incredible number of 60,000 Salvadorans were killed. 

1990 (Feb. 23)  --  death of Duarte.

1994 (June 1) to 1999 (June 1)  --  Armando Calderón Sol, a member of ARENA, was the President of El Salvador.

1999-2004  --   Francisco Guillermo Flores Pérez (a member of the Nationalist Republican Alliance ARENA) was the President of El Salvador.

2004  --  Elías Antonio ("Tony") Saca González, a member of ARENA,  became the President of El Salvador.



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