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Pope Francis gifted with Romero artwork

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Gerardo José Granados, 34, a Salvadoran who attended the Church of the Nativity in Burke and currently teaches illustration in Barcelona, Spain, received exciting news via a late night text message from his mother back in Arlington.

“My mom just told me that my artwork is on its way to Pope Francis,” Granados said.

His mother, Carmen Ivonne Roca de Granados, works for the diocesan Spanish Apostolate, and she sent a print of his illustration of Archbishop Óscar Romero as a gift to Pope Francis after being reassured by Salvadoran Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez that it was under consideration for the late archbishop’s canonization ceremony, which is likely to be held in Rome at the end of October. On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass.

 Granados credits his parents and his older brother, Josedgardo Granados, who is also a visual artist, for providing direction and support.

“My parents give me nothing but support,” Granados said in reaction to the news. “And my brother always helps me to articulate my artistic vision.” 

Granados’ early childhood in El Salvador seared memories of violence caused by the country’s bloody civil war, but his mother’s deep respect for Archbishop Romero — she transcribed his homilies before his assassination — caused the artist to reflect on the martyred Salvadoran prelate as a tangible witness of hope for his people. 

“So many Salvadorans continue to suffer and it gives me peace knowing that they will always have Monseñor Romero to turn to in times of need,” Granados said.

His mother also reflected on Archbishop Romero’s example, especially his words of solidarity for those who were suffering.

“Back when I was young, I worked for a university newspaper,” Roca de Granados said. “Every Monday, I transcribed Monseñor Romero’s homilies and he was always defending the defenseless: the poor; that is why he was killed.”

El Salvador’s tumultuous past is also a creative wellspring for Granados.

“My childhood during that time is an endless fount of inspiration for my art,” Granados said.

As for the reason for his family moving to the United States in 1991, Granados was very much aware of the struggles in El Salvador: “car bombs exploded and dead bodies were routinely dumped in the trash bins outside of each house.”  

His mother has other memories, too. Her brother, René Roca, was serving as a soldier when he was killed outside of her father’s house. Death threats started flooding in via late night telephone calls after her husband tried to find out why her brother was killed. 

“I told my husband, I already lost one loved one and I cannot stand to lose you, too,” she said.

Bombs were going off throughout San Salvador and burning buses were scattered throughout it. In one incident, a car filled with piñatas on their street exploded with a piece of shrapnel tearing through the leg of the designated neighborhood guard.

“I knew it was time to go,” Roca de Granados said. 

Her husband, and Granados’ father, José Edgardo Granados, was an early recipient of Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. Now a U.S. citizen, he has taught Spanish at St. Louis School in Alexandria for 8 years.

Cardinal Chávez, who was elevated to cardinal in June 2017 at a ceremony in Rome which the Granados family attended, spoke with Roca de Granados after an April 12 panel discussion with Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and other Salvadoran prelates at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More regarding Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Salvadoran immigrants. 

The cardinal said that Granados’ illustration, which includes Mayan symbols for days, months and years superimposed on the outline of Archbishop Romero's profile, was in the running for use in the canonization ceremony.

“I’m so proud because my son has not lost his love for our country and culture,” Roca de Granados said. “And he used his art to capture Monseñor Romero and his defense of the poor."


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018