In memory of Monsignor Óscar Romero, the Salvadoran archbishop assassinated for his political activism during the Salvadoran civil war, the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) in San Francisco honored two men Tuesday night for their embodiment of Romero’s legacy.
“It’s important for all of us Latinos to remember the revolutionary roots, and from there, working together to empower deep social change in our communities,” said CARECEN Executive Director Ana Perez. “That is the meaning and importance of recognizing these important Latino leaders and their commitment to Monsignor Romero.”
Romero, a hero amongst Salvadorans, Latin Americans and globally for his bravery during the war in the 1980s, which resulted in the death of over 75,000 civilians, was the focal point of the night, as honorees paid tribute to his memory, his work and his legacy.
The third annual “Romero Vive” event recognized the work of Kevin Johnson, Dean of the UC Davis School of Law and, José Padilla, Executive Director of California Rural Legal Assistance, as well as celebrating CARECEN’s presence in the Bay Area for 25 years.
Accompanied by lively music and appetizing Central American cuisine, the three-hour event, which also functioned as a fundraiser, brought to light the emergence of Latino activism in the Bay Area, and those specifically of Central American descent.
Johnson was honored for his diligent work in reforming immigration law, and his dedication to changing the way immigration is perceived in the nation.
“It’s very meaningful to me because when I started thinking about issue of immigration, no one cared back then, nobody thought they were [as] important,” he said.
“To know that at least some people care, view them as important and view the relatively minor work I have done is really gratifying.”
Speaking with authority and a calm reverence, Johnson’s passion for immigration reform became apparent.
Padilla immediately commanded the room, speaking with a passionate, volatile and awe-inspiring quality, his voice supported by a fierceness and apparent dedication to the many struggles faced by immigrant Latinos in the U.S.
Padilla recognized Romero as a human-rights activist and as a beacon of inspiration for all those wishing to make a difference in their communities.
“Archbishop Romero knew he was going to die because of what he had to say, and so people like me, we see what his example was and it inspires you to want to continue to play the role,” he said. “I have been doing this for 30 something years, but you still need to be inspired to not quit. But you can’t quit, and for me that is what this is about, to be honored by one of those inspirations.”
In the end, many in attendance reflected that the event was an important moment to recognize change being made for Latinos and remembering a man who, through his work, inspired men like Johnson and Padilla to make a difference.
“[Events] like this can help by continuing to keep politics our focus and reforming policy to aid the most vulnerable, then the people who are most suffering can benefit from our joint efforts,” said Perez.
“We need leaders like Johnson and Padilla, and we hope this next generation of Latinos take inspiration from them, and people like Romero to continue the fight for justice and civil rights in America.”
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 at 6:24 pm.