On November 16, 1989, I was a sophomore at the Jesuit-run Regis High School in New York City. I was in my guidance counselor's office when we first found out about the massacre of the six Jesuits priests at the UCA in San Salvador. Over the next several months, we learned more about their work through an alumnus who had been working with Salvadoran refugees across the border in Honduras.
Oddly enough, I was already familiar with El Salvador when I first heard of their murders. Sr. Maura Clarke, one of the American churchwomen killed in December 1980, was from my neighborhood. We went to the same grammar school in Rockaway Beach, NY. While I have no recollection of her death (I was six at the time), I do remember seeing her plaque in the school hallway. When I arrived at the Jesuit-run Fairfield University for my undergraduate studies, I made friends with the dean of students. It turned out that she had known Jean Donovan very well, a missionary killed alongside Maura Clarke.
The murders of the churchwomen and those of the Jesuits heavily influenced my decision to apply for a Fulbright to study in El Salvador following graduation from Fairfield University. I spent 1997 in El Salvador studying the development of the political party system in the postwar period. I even got to take classes at the UCA. After returning from Central America is mid-1998, I applied for graduate school in political science and ended up at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
In graduate school, I hoped to study the transition of former rebel movements to political parties in El Salvador and Guatemala. Unfortunately, very few faculty thought it was a good idea. It took awhile, but I eventually convinced enough of them (I only needed four + one outside member) that I was on to something. For the last three-plus years, I have been teaching Latin American politics at the University of Scranton in Northeast Pennsylvania. Scranton, of course, is another Jesuit institution.
I honestly have no idea what I would be doing with my life had it not been for the tragic events of November 1989. I do know, however, that one of the reasons that I became a professor was to share the stories of Salvadorans and Guatemalans, as well as those of the rest of the people of Latin America, with others. That's what I do on campus and that's what I really hope to accomplish with this form of proyección social.