San Salvador Cathedral Destruction: 2 Years Later

Photo by Ana Canizalez
Photo by Ana Canizalez

by Rachel Heidenry

Two years ago I published an article in the Pulitzer Center Crisis for Reporting about the destruction of Fernando Llort’s mosaic facade, Harmonia de mi pueblo, on the San Salvador Cathedral.

Protest after destruction, photo by Heidenry, Jan. 2012

The mosaic was destroyed at the orders of Archbishop José Luís Escobar Alas during the 2011 Christmas holidays. A white drape was hung overnight and by the next morning the mural had been completely chipped away with the fragments purged. The government was not informed. The artist was never notified. The public was shocked. But no laws had been broken. Nothing could be done.

Courtesy of Wikipedia, photo from May 2013
Courtesy of Wikipedia, photo from May 2013

Two years later, the exterior remains blank.

Despite initial outrage, no Salvadoran news agency has returned to the subject.

Artists mention it from time to time.

Google searches for “el salvador cathedral” continue to highlight the mosaic.

Harmonia T-shirts are still sold.

But, largely, nothing has been done.

Except this: In November 2013, a ceremony took place at the Ex Casa Presidencial honoring Salvadoran cultural leaders, including Fernando Llort. In preparation for the event, organizers asked artists to recreate Llort’s mural to serve as the backdrop, providing paint and large white sheets of canvas. The sheets were hung during the ceremony as a tribute to Llort and his contribution to the Salvadoran artistic community. Minutes of applause elapsed.

Courtesy of Diario Co Latino
Courtesy of Diario Co Latino

Finally, something.

As the debate for laws protecting cultural patrimony in El Salvador intensifies, Salvadorans must return to Harmonia de mi pueblo and consider what more has been lost from the destruction of the nation’s most famous work of art.

Read more: El Salvador: The Politics of Art & Memory 

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