Bridge to Faculty scholar’s play ‘Romero’ sheds light on martyred social justice icon
“The cohort [members] have now become my closest friends. I don’t have family in Chicago, so this group has become my community,” Cornejo said.
When she took the position at UIC she made her work on “Romero” and its production part of her research and creative work as a Bridge to Faculty scholar. The production was co-sponsored by the UIC Center for Latinx Literature of the Americas and the UIC Institute for the Humanities, and was a community-based collaboration between the Centro Romero, Teatro Vista with support from Steppenwolf’s LookOut series, and the UIC School of Theatre and Music, she said.
Each presentation was sold out and audience members paid rapt attention to the emotionally laden words spoken by the actors. After the staged readings, discussions were held featuring Chicago-based artists, UIC faculty and Centro Romero staff.
Daysi Funes, executive director of the Centro Romero in Chicago, participated in the discussions. Funes said the “powerful” play — which uses the priest’s own words and historical events — honestly presented the struggle Romero faced.
As a Salvadorian immigrant herself who had met Romero, Funes said Cornejo captured the prelate’s humility. She said the play helped her remember traveling to Rome and watching as Pope Francis led the canonization ceremony in Saint Peter’s Square. The Pope, who is from Argentina, wore Romero’s bloodstained cincture in the ceremony.
“People from all over the world, not only the Salvadorians but whoever believed in justice, were there,” Funes said. “When I saw the play, I could see how it embodied that part, and it touched my heart.”
Cornejo said Romero’s story is important today as people struggle for social justice and try to “speak truth to power” while authoritarian leaders use repression and violence to keep people from attaining freedom and human rights.
No one has been brought to justice for the killing of the popular priest, who spoke out against government-sponsored violence and repression.
“It’s amazing and also heartbreaking to realize many of those things have not changed,” Cornejo said. “I hope people will be inspired to dig deep within themselves about what they can do and what their role is in creating a more just and equitable world.”