Héctor Gallego


Priest Jesús Héctor Gallego Born January 7, 1938 Kidnapped June 9, 1971 His parents: Horacio Gallego, Alejandrina H. de Gallego "If I disappear don't look for me; continue the struggle."

Priest Jesús Héctor Gallego Born January 7, 1938 Kidnapped June 9, 1971 His parents: Horacio Gallego, Alejandrina H. de Gallego "If I disappear don't look for me; continue the struggle."

We arrive in the lovely town of Santa Fe and I see a monument to Héctor Gallego. He is standing in front of a replica of a peasant hut, and below it has a quote that carries echoes of Joe Hill’s dictum “don’t mourn; organize!” Everything in this tourist mecca seems to carry his name–the peasant coop, the grocery store, even the internet cafe.

Good Friday when everything is shut down is not the most conducive time to ask around for information on who exactly Héctor Gallego was and what he had done. Lonely Planet says that he was a catholic priest from the 1960s who organized the local peasants until the government became wary of his teachings and murdered him.

In 1971, Omar Torrijos was in power. At the same time that Gallego was killed, Torrijos was giving land and water buffalo to peasants at Coclecito. I assume if Gallego was organizing peasants to wrest power away from the coffee barons and to put the profits in the hands of the farmers that he was probably influenced by liberation theology.

What does this say about Torrijos if he would want to kill a radical priest? Is this evidence that Torrijos did not have a revolutionary ideology, but instead like a traditional nineteenth-century caudillo he was an authoritarian leader who handed out favors to his friends but tolerated no one who organized power bases separately from him? Does Panama have a strong tradition of social movement organizing?

I keep finding indications like this that this weird little country has a much more fascinating history than the traditional focus on a big ditch going through the middle of it would ever seem to indicate.

  1. #1 by Keith Kivlin on August 2, 2010 - 8:50 am

    It is probably not wise to call Panama a “weird little country.”
    Torrijos was a populist, you know, like a lot of politicians in the U.S. Of course, U.S. politicians never have anybody killed. Or do they? You might have mentioned the participation of the Roman hierarchy in the death of Hector. They knew where Hector was and they must have told the death squad.

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