Death's Dance Broken

On Thursday, November 2, 1989, at 8 a.m. in Antigua, Guatemala, Sister Dianna Ortiz was dragged into hell. The 28-year-old Ursuline nun, originally from New Mexico, was kidnapped by two men from the Guatemalan security forces and taken 45 kilometers to a secret prison at La Escuela Polytecnica (the old police and military training school) in Guatemala City.

Twenty-four hours later, when a man called Alejandro shouted for the men to stop mid-rape, he put his boot in a door which, for most abducted Guatemalans, is closed irrevocably by death. Alejandro led Ortiz to a gray Suzuki jeep, back into the autumn light of Avenida La Reforma, 10 blocks from the U.S. Embassy. No longer "disappeared," she escaped from him toward the Old City, the cathedral, to become one of the "undead."

Every step Ortiz has taken since her escape has been toward learning the truth of what happened to her. Truth is the necessary ingredient for healing her shattered life and reclaiming her violated body. Truth enables a survivor of abuse to overcome the isolation described by Salvadoran poet Claribel Alegria: "Don’t come any closer/there’s a stench of carrion/surrounding me."

Truth, however, is the first casualty of war. In Guatemala in 1954, the CIA sponsored and trained mercenary forces to overthrow Jacobo Arbenz’s democratically elected government. The CIA-engineered coup put Col. Carlos Castillo Armas in power. Armas reversed the Arbenz land reform programs, abolished taxes for foreign investors, eliminated the secret ballot, and plunged Guatemala into a reign of terror.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1996
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