While researching The Saint of Santa Fe, I spent a considerable amount of time in the mountains of the province of Veraguas, where Father Gallego served as parish priest. I had lengthy conversations with people whose lives were deeply affected by this noble Colombian. Among them were Jacinto Peña, the lone witness to Father Gallego’s abduction; Father Raúl Rodríguez, Santa Fe’s current parish priest; and Edilma Gallego, Héctor’s sister who first came to Panama in September of 1999, when it was thought that her brother’s remains had been found. Edilma Gallego, a person every bit as courageous as her older sibling, has chosen to stay in this country to continue his work. And she and her family still have hopes that one day they will learn the truth about what happened to Héctor.
The stories and comments I heard while in Santa Fe were both inspiring and heartrending. “He was the angel God sent to liberate us,” an elderly campesina said to me. “To know him was to know Christ,” said Eric Concepción, for whom Father Gallego obtained a scholarship so he could study agriculture. At the time of our conversation, Eric was the president of Panamá’s organic farmers. “He was a prophet,” Father Rodríguez claims. “And sadly, as history repeatedly demonstrates, prophets meet a tragic fate because the truth they speak threatens the established order.”
And Father Héctor Gallego did speak the truth. As the first parish priest in the four-hundred year history of Santa Fe, he helped bring an end to the exploitation campesinos had been subjected to for centuries. Sadly, the truth offended the local strongman—a first cousin of General Omar Torrijos—and this cost Héctor his life.
Who kidnapped Father Héctor Gallego; on whose orders; how did he die; and where are his remains are questions that several former members of Panama’s defunct military can answer. Yet in writing The Saint of Santa Fe I believed readers deserved to learn the story about the extraordinary things this saintly man did in life.
Find out more on Amazon
Silvio Sirias is the author of Bernardo and the Virgin (2005) and Meet Me under the Ceiba (2009), winner of the Chicano/Latino Literary Prize for Best Novel, and most recently The Saint of Santa Fe. A native of Los Angeles, he spent his adolescence in Nicaragua and currently lives in Panama. In 2010, Silvio was named one of the “Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch (and Read).” He has a doctorate in Spanish from the University of Arizona. He has also published academic books on Julia Alvarez, Rudolfo Anaya, and the poet Salomon de la Selva. In addition, he has a collection of essays titled Love Made Visible: Reflections on Writing, Teaching, and Other Distractions. The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature lists him among the handful of authors who are introducing Central American themes into the U.S. literary landscape. For more information, visit his website at www.silviosirias.com.
https://www.facebook.com/silviofans / Twitter: @silviosirias