Meet Cristian López, the Artist Who Painted the Beloved Mural of San Romero in San Salvador

Lead Photo: Photo of mural by Giovani Ascencio Ardón y Raul Lemus is licensed under GNU Free Documentation License.
Photo of mural by Giovani Ascencio Ardón y Raul Lemus is licensed under GNU Free Documentation License.
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More than a year ago, Cristian López painted a tribute to San Óscar Romero on the side of the Catedral Metropolitana de San Salvador. In that short time, the young artist’s work has become a fixture.

This weekend, Monseñor Romero was canonized a saint in the Catholic Church, 38 years after his assassination. Salvadorans have long considered Romero – who believed in liberation theology, that is liberation from economic, political, and social oppression – a saint. A right-wing death squad killed him on March 24, 1980 in the middle of a mass at a hospital chapel. For decades, conservatives within the church attempted to impeded his canonization because they disapproved of his politics. However, he has remained a symbol of hope within El Salvador.

When López painted the mural, he expected it’d be defaced. However, he has seen little trouble with the painting. Instead, people have posed beside the mural for the last year or so.

López began painting eight years ago, and though he created paintings for La Catedral, it happened by chance. Someone else had asked him to paint a mural of a woman asking for peace near the cathedral.

He first got into street art after visiting Chile, where walls were filled with graffiti and mural. “Each blank space is like a canvas,”he told El Metropolitano Digital. “The artists fight to place their art in a worthy place in Valparaíso. So on my return to San Salvador, especially in the center, I saw all the blank spaces, and it was a great opportunity to [fill them with art]. That’s when I drew my mom asking for peace.”

And then he did a few more. Eventually, he asked the church for permission to pay tribute to San Romero. He created it in one day, because he didn’t think that a mural of Romero – a polemic figure – would last long. From there, he earned the trust of the church, which then asked him to paint two portraits, each measuring in at a whopping 21 feet by 9 feet. “For me, those works were not an opportunity I expected, nor looked for,” he said. “But it happened.”

Art museums have yet to feature López’s work, but the truth is the young artist is more interested in the way people react with his works – something that museums don’t always allow.