Performing resurrection: upholding the spirit and legacy of El Salvador's Saint Oscar A. Romero through Bread and Puppet's and MECATE's radical theatre activism and liberation theology
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Amidst death threats by the right-wing military for denouncing human rights violations during the Salvadoran Civil War, Salvadoran priest Archbishop Oscar A. Romero (1917-1980), a proponent of liberation theology, declared he was not afraid of death because he believed in resurrection; if killed, he would resurrect in the Salvadoran people. Shortly after, Romero was assassinated by the right-wing military while giving mass. In 1985, the North American protest theatre group Bread and Puppet Theater presented The Nativity, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Archbishop Oscar A. Romero of El Salvador, his life, death, and dramatized resurrection in Nicaragua. This study investigates the role of performance in 'resurrecting' Romero's spirit and social justice legacy. Romero was canonized as a Saint by the Catholic Church in 2018. I utilize social movement theory and a hybrid methodological approach, drawing from autoethnography, historiography, oral history, and dramatic writing, and analyzing primary and secondary sources and participant observations during my company apprenticeship to understand performance as manifestations of Romero. My analysis concludes that upholding Romero's teachings through performance, like The Nativity and other group actions and behaviors, embodies Romero's spirit, held cultural, political, and personal implications for participants, contextualizes Bread and Puppet's praxis in the spirit of liberation theology and fostered transnational solidarity activism between Bread and Puppet and MECATE. This study contributes to the limited knowledge of protest theatre history within the Americas. It expands on existing Bread and Puppet history, highlighting its Latin American influence, preserves the legacy of Romero and MECATE, and offers new insight into radical theatre practices between the US and Central America as a model.