08-064 Leadership: Juan Romagoza
Vol. 08 No. 064 01/20/2013
Lead: Often social progress requires a leader to forfeit personal safety and affluence, even to place themselves in harms way. Such was not the first choice of Juan Romagoza.

Intro: A Moment In Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Romagoza grew to manhood in Usulu 'tan, El Salvador, in a family so spiritually rich that later he said he only rarely noticed that he lived in abject poverty. There he fell under the influence of Father and then Bishop Oscar Romero. For a time, Romagoza considered the priesthood, but dropped out of seminary bitter at a God who would allow his nation to be racked with so much poverty and corruption, a place where right wing paramilitaries preserved with torture and death the government and the rule of the landed aristocracy.

Romagoza moved to San Salvador, the capitol, to attend medical school and that brought him back into contact with now Archbishop Romero. The killing of a fellow priest had transformed the prelate into open defiance of the military government. When Romero was martyred while saying evening mass in early spring 1980, Romagoza underwent a spiritual reawakening. Romero's example compelled the new physician into service to the poor. He worked in free clinics out in the countryside until this service attracted official suspicion. Suspected as a guerilla leader, Romagoza was arrested and tortured for 23 days. His fingers were severed to prevent future service as a surgeon. Released and still bearing the untreated wounds of his torture, he was smuggled to Guatemala, then Mexico and then, through the efforts of the 1980s U.S. sanctuary movement, as a political refugee into the United States. He continues today as an advocate for health care for the poor in Washington, D.C. Essayist Richard Couto cites Romagoza as an example of a democratic leader willing to endure personal reprisal so as to effect social change.

The producer of A Moment In Time is Steve Clark. At the University of Richmond this is Dan Roberts.


Couto, Richard and Stephanie C. Eken. To Give their Gifts: Health, Community, and Democracy. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2002.

Couto, Richard and Catherine S. Gutherie. Making Democracy Work Better: Mediating Structures, Social Capital, and the Democratic Prospect. Chapel Hill: North Carolina University Press, 1999.

Loeb, Paul Rogat. Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in A Cynical Time. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1999.

Williamson, Marianne, Ed. Imagine: What America Could Be in the 21st Century, Visions of A Better Future from Leading American Thinkers. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Copyright 2013 by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.