“Juan Ramón Moreno, S.J.”, Oil on Canvas, 2010
I’m painting portraits of the six El Salvadoran Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter who were murdered in November, 1989. I’m enjoying working on the portraits, but the research involving their deaths is very disturbing. While their murders were shocking news around the world at that time, the event barely registered a blip in news coverage in the United States. Their deaths, along with thousands of other civilians in Central America, were the effects of U.S. foreign policy during the 1980’s and early 90’s. During the same week the Jesuit murders were committed, U.S. funded and trained military forces killed at least 28 other civilians in similar fashion. Among them were the head of the water works union, the leader of the organization of university women, nine members of an Indian farming cooperative, and ten university students. In the 1990’s the “School of the Americas” at Fort Benning in Georgia proudly proclaimed that they had “defeated Liberation Theology” in Latin America.
Training, funding and instructing military forces in Central America during the 1980’s was oriented towards supporting U.S. business interests. The American consumer, American businesses and government sponsored terror are linked together in a market system. However, massive amounts of state-run propaganda and business advertising are aimed at marginalizing the truth about government-business enterprises around the world, which benefit the American consumer. While it is a very callous thing to say, the murder of the Jesuits, along with the deaths of thousands of other innocent people in Central America have ultimately benefited America. This is the dark side of the American identity, and what I want to represent in these paintings.
“Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J.”, Oil on Canvas, 2009
The El Salvadoran Jesuits taught at the University of Central America, and provided services for the poor, and for indigenous farmers and labor organizations during the country’s civil war in the 1980’s. Democratic organizations that grew in number among the population during the 1970’s sought greater representation and a more liberal distribution of resources and opportunity in their own country. The country’s oligarchy system of government, having been largely supported by the U.S. government since the country’s independence from Spain, maintained a vast inequality between the elite governing minority and the majority population. Unfair land ownership led the country’s population to increasingly call for reforms through protests and other social remedies, which was met with violence and murder from the El Salvadoran government. Funding, arms, and military training from the U.S. to El Salvador increased exponentially during the 80’s to fight back the social democratic movements, which led to a gruesome civil war in the country. The Jesuits were specifically targeted for murder for their support of the social groups that called for a more democratic society.
“Segundo Montes Mozo, S.J.”, Oil on Canvas, 2009