Continuing the talk at Equip Maiz:
The reforms of Vatican 2 had a major impact on change in El Salvador. Latin American bishops met in Medellin, Colombia, in 1968 to interpret the meaning of Vatican 2 for their countries. From this meeting grew what is called liberation theology. Most importantly, that the poor had the right to dignity in this life, not wait through suffering until the next. This was put into practice in local parishes through small Base Christian Communities, first formed in 1969. The purpose was twofold: evangelism and raising consciousness. To teach that every human has dignity and rights. Many peasants didn't know about the constitution and the rights it already contained. They began, with the help of priests and other community organizers, to demand their rights. The growing left wing in El Salvador can be credited in large part to the Church, which is so central to public life in El Salvador (plus student groups, unions, community groups). An amazing thing to ponder given the current situation.
A "left wing" president was elected for the first time in 1972, but the military wouldn't let them take power. This was repeated in 1977. Again thwarted by electoral fraud. Some wonder whether the civil war would have occurred if these presidents had been seated. After the second flawed election, the left began resistance, including taking over the block outside the Cathedral. Eighty days later, the army shot into the people gathered in the square and killed more than 100 and captured many more.
From 1977-1980, the left grew and the country underwent a political convulsion. The government pushed back. Disappearances grew, persecution increased, torture, maiming and more. This was the time that Romero was archbishop. He was assassinated in 1980, while saying mass at the chapel of the hospital where he lived, by order of military commanders from the highest levels. (This was confirmed by the driver just last month). He was killed on March 24, 1980. On May 15, 50 people were killed in a massacre. On November 27, leftist leaders were tortured and killed. On December 2, four North American Catholic sisters were raped and killed. A civil war was declared on January 10, 1981. It lasted for almost 12 years.