Martyred Archbishop Romero's story set to music

Romero mural

While many along the US eastern seaboard grumbled about the continuous snow this winter, Uruguayan singer-songwriter Luis Alfredo Diaz Britos saw an opportunity instead of a reason to complain, reports CNS/NCR Online.

While snowbound at St Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Hyattsville, Maryland, Diaz Britos had nowhere to go and no one to see, since the Washington area is paralysed anytime it snows.

During one of the heaviest snows of the season, he began putting together a project that had been floating around in his head for a while: a musical about the life of slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Diaz Britos, a popular Latin American Catholic singer-songwriter who now lives in Spain, said the idea came to him when he organised a retreat for musicians in the Washington area, which he visits a couple of times a year. The 20-somethings of Salvadoran descent who attended the retreat had no idea about Romero, a defender or the poor and disenfranchised, who was fatally wounded by a bullet March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass.

'It was painful,' he told Catholic News Service. 'How could they not know of a man who gave his life, not just for people, but for the Church?'

The US Census estimates that the Washington area is home to about 133,000 Salvadoran expatriates, and reports from the Pew Hispanic Centre say about 240,000 people in the Washington region are of Salvadoran descent. Some Salvadoran nationals arrived during the country's civil war that lasted from roughly 1979-92. Others left because of a lack of jobs at home or to escape rampant crime.

The United States financially backed the Salvadoran government during the war, even when some members of the military participated in massacres and other human rights violations, including the rape and killing of three women religious and a lay missionary, all from the United States, in December 1980.

The U.S. and El Salvador remain united through trade, through remittances from expats and through US-born children of Salvadorans. For Diaz Britos, music - his go-to method to transmit what he feels, what he reads and thinks is important - is the vehicle to teach many of them about the country of their ancestors and what took place, the good and the bad.

'If I can write a simple song, something that will touch the heart, I could transmit the message,' he said.

FULL STORY Set to music: Archbishop Romero's story against backdrop of civil war (CNS/NCR Online)

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