CJA represents the relatives of the victims of the 1989 Jesuits Massacre. Brief bios about the victims are below.
Father Ignacio Ellacuría Bescoetxea was born on November 9, 1930, in Bilbao, Spain. He served as the rector of the University of Central America (UCA) for over ten years. He was a theologian, a philosopher and a gifted intellectual with a fierce commitment to human rights. It was Father Ellacuría’s strong advocacy for a negotiated solution to the war that won him the enmity of the military and rightist political sectors. For the last 20 years of his life Father Ellacuría was also involved in pastoral work with the poor.
The order from General Ponce that resulted in the Jesuit Massacre was “to kill Father Ellacuría and leave no witnesses.” Because of his outspoken criticism of the military dictatorship, Father Ellacuría was the primary target of the Salvadoran military. Father Ellacuría maintained that the fundamental cause of the armed conflict in El Salvador was not the aggression of communism but the structural injustice lived by Salvadorans. For him, the only way to end the war was to deal with this injustice.
Father Ignacio Martín-Baró was born on November 7, 1942, in Valladolid, Spain. He was a well-known scholar, social psychologist and philosopher. After his entrance into the Society of Jesus, his superiors sent him to Central America. In 1967, Father Martín-Baró started teaching at the UCA. He served many roles during his tenure, including that of Dean of Students and head of the Psychology Department. In 1986, Father Martín-Baró founded the University Institute of Public Opinion at the UCA. An active community member, Father Martín-Baró also served on the Editorial Board of the UCA magazine Estudios Centroamericanos, The Journal of Salvadoran Psychology and the Costa Rican magazine Polémica.
On the night of November 15, 1989, Father Martín-Baró placed a call to his sister Alicia Martín-Baró in Spain. During the call, Alicia asked him, “When are things going to improve in El Salvador?” Father Martín-Baró answered, “Oh, many people have to die before that happens.” Just a few hours later, he and the others were killed.
Father Segundo Montes was born on May 15, 1933, in Valladolid, Spain. He was a well-known scholar and human rights activist. He entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in 1950. Father Montes began his teaching career at the Externado San José, a Jesuit school traditionally dedicated to educate the children of the Salvadoran elite. One of his students, José Ricardo Espinoza Guerra, would later command the soldiers that killed him. In 1985, Father Montes founded the Human Rights Institute at UCA (IDHUCA), which he directed until his death in 1989. As director of IDHUCA, Father Montes became popular in El Salvador and the in United States due to his work with Salvadoran refugees throughout Central and North America. He was appointed to the boards of the Central American Resource Center and the Center for Central American Refugees. Father Montes also became an informal advisor to Congressman Joe Moakley of Massachusetts on the subject of Salvadoran Refugees in the U.S. Congressman Moakley was later tasked by the U.S. Congress to investigate the Jesuits Massacre.
Father Amando López was born on February 6, 1936 in Burgos, Spain. In 1952, he began his novitiate with the Society of Jesus. He went to El Salvador in the second year of his novitiate and then, in 1954, to Quito, Ecuador to study classical humanities and philosophy. He received degrees in Europe and returned to El Salvador in 1970 to teach at the San José de la Montaña seminary. He soon became the school’s rector. In 1973 and 1974, Father López taught philosophy at the UCA.
In 1975, Father López moved to the Central American University in Managua, Nicaragua. His arrival coincided with the final years of the Somoza regime, during which Father López assisted the many suffering people. During the most difficult moments of Somoza’s bombing of civilians, Father López opened the university campus to families in need. In 1979, after the success of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, Father López was named rector of the university, a post he held until 1983 when conflict between the Church and the Nicaraguan state forced him to resign. In 1984, Father López returned once again to El Salvador and became a philosophy and theology professor at UCA. He also served as pastor of the Tierra Virgen community in Soyapango, a poor neighborhood in the periphery of San Salvador.
Father Juan Ramon Moreno was born in Navarra, Spain on August 29, 1933. After entering the Jesuit novitiate in 1950, he spent the next eight years in El Salvador. In 1969, Father Moreno traveled to Rome to take courses on spirituality, and in 1970, he returned to El Salvador to direct the Jesuit seminary. While there, he also taught at the UCA.
In 1976, Father Moreno was sent to Panama to create the Ignatian Center of Central America in order to promote Ignatian spirituality. From 1976 to 1980, he built up the Center’s library and founded the publication Diakonia, which sought to spread information on liberation and spiritual theology. In 1985, Father Moreno returned to El Salvador to organize the Center for Theological Reflection at the UCA. He also taught philosophy and supervised the construction of the Monseñor Romero Pastoral Center. Despite all his academic accomplishments, Father Moreno always longed to work as a priest at a rural parish.
Father Joaquín López y López was born in Chalchuapa, El Salvador on August 16, 1918. He entered the novitiate with Mexican Jesuits in El Paso, Texas in 1938. Father López y López began his theological studies in the United States and completed them in Spain in 1951. He took his vows with the Society of Jesus in 1952.
A few years later, Father López y López began efforts to create the UCA. In 1969, together with a group of women, he raised funds and created the organization Fe y Alegria (Faith and Joy), which he directed until his death. During that time, 30 educational centers were opened in marginalized communities across the country and 48,000 people received vocational training and education. Father López y López considered the work of Fe y Alegria to be crucial in addressing the lack of education in El Salvador, one of the most pressing problems in the country.
Julia Elba Ramos was born in Santiago de Maria, El Salvador on March 5, 1947. Elba’s husband, Obdulio, worked as an overseer on a plantation in Santa Tecla, and she worked as a domestic employee in San Salvador. During the coffee harvest, she would leave her domestic job to cut coffee on the plantation where her husband worked. In 1970, the plantation owner was kidnapped and killed, forcing Elba and Obdulio to abandon their jobs. The couple moved to Jayaque, where Obdulio worked as a watchman and Elba farmed corn and beans to provide for her family. Elba and Obdulio had four children, two of whom died. At the time of the massacre, Elba and Obdulio had two living children, one of whom was Celina Meredith.
In 1985, Elba began to work at the Jesuits’ residence at the UCA. In 1989, Father Montes offered Obdulio a job as the gardener and watchman of the new university residence as well as a newly built home near the residence. Elba was killed alongside her daughter Celina. Her body was found wrapped around Celina’s, trying to protect her from the shooting.
Celina Maricet Ramos was born in Jayaque, El Salvador on February 23, 1976. In 1989, she finished her first year of high school at the José Damian Villacorta Institute in Santa Tecla. On November 11, 1989, at the beginning of the Farabundo Martí Liberation Front (FMLN) offensive, an FMLN patrol bombed one of the entrances to the UCA and shattered all the windows in the Ramos’ house. From that night on, Celina and her mother slept in a small room next to the Jesuits’ dining hall. The night of the massacre, Celina’s father stayed at their home. He was the first to find the bodies of his wife and daughter alongside those of the murdered Jesuit priests.