More than 3 decades after her brutal murder, Jean Donovan is back in the news.
The Westport native was 1 of 4 American churchwomen killed on December 2, 1980 by Salvadoran national guardsmen.
Jean — a junior high and Staples High School classmate of mine — was a lay missionary working in El Salvador, helping the poor.
She and 3 nuns were beaten, raped, shot in the head, then dumped by the roadside.
Now, the New York Times reports that 2 Salvadoran generals — defense ministers during the “blood-soaked” 1980s — may be deported.
The Times says:
They were allowed to settle there during the presidency of George Bush, who, like his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, considered them allies and bulwarks against a Moscow-backed leftist insurgency.
But administrations change, and so do government attitudes. Over the past two and a half years, immigration judges in Florida have ruled that the generals bore responsibility for assassinations and massacres, and deserve now to be “removed” — bureaucratese for deported. Both are appealing the decisions, so for now they are going nowhere. Given their ages, their cases may be, for all parties, a race against time.
Longtime Westporter John Suggs says that in progressive Catholic social justice networks, “Jean Donovan is considered a saint.”
A Jean Donovan Summer Fellowship at Santa Clara University — a Jesuit school — supports students interested in social justice, while in Los Angeles the Casa Jean Donovan Community Residence houses members of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.
But, Suggs says, “in Westport she is all but forgotten.” The few who remember her, and mourn her passing each December, believe she has been forgotten by her town, her school and her parish. (There is a brief mention of her, he says, in the back vestibule of Assumption Church. And Staples graduate Cynthia Gibb played a character based on Jean in Oliver Stone’s “Salvador.”)
The New York Times has shed a new light on Jean Donovan’s murderers. Perhaps next month, she will not be mourned by so few.(The New York Times story includes a fascinating 13-minute video.)