Diana Ortiz ¡presente!

Against the Current No. 213, July/August 2021

AN URSULINE NUN, Dianna Ortiz was gang-raped and tortured by a Guatemalan “security” force while teaching literacy as a Catholic missionary there in 1989, which The New York Times reported “helped lead to the release of documents showing American involvement in human rights abuses in that country.”

Hundreds of thousands of Indigenous Guatemalans were massacred in decades of U.S.-backed repression and dictatorship. The attackers told Dianna they “knew who she was” and about her work in Huehuetenango province.

As she testified at a Congressional hearing, on the second day of her captivity a certain “Alejandro” — whom she suspected of being an American from his accented Spanish — turned up and told the torturers to stop because her kidnapping was becoming an international story. As he was driving her to what she expected would be her execution, she managed to escape at a traffic stop and call for help.

Her memoir The Blindfold’s Eyes: My Journey from Torture to Truth was published by Orbis Press in 2004. As Joseph Mulligan, a Jesuit priest, writes in The Catholic Worker (June-July 2021), Oritz “dedicated her life and work to denouncing torture and other gross violations of human rights.”

A 43-year member of the Assisi House community in Washington D.C., Dianna Ortiz died of cancer February 19. The funeral homily by Fr. Joe Nagle recalled her “long struggle against the horrendous policies of torture which stain our American soul. She stood publicly against the horrendous sin of our country — violence as policy. And she turned that terrible experience into a challenge, even to the highest levels of U.S. political life…

“She achieved an immense goal in forcing our government to significant accountability for the inhuman way our government was acting in order to ‘protect’ our American way of life — torture.”

September-October 2021, ATC 214

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