It was 13 March 1983 when 34 year-old Marianela García Villas was tortured and killed, three years after the assassination of the archbishop with whom this young woman had shared battles and hopes. Like Romero and hundreds and thousands of other people, she too was a victim of the blood-thirsty regime that ruled the country for a long time. Born in El Salvador in 1948, a daughter of the rich bourgeoisie, from her adolescence Marianela was upset by social injustices. At university (she graduated in law) she joined Catholic Action and trained herself by discussing the Council and Medellín documents and analysing texts on liberation theology. As well as her studies she soon became a militant for Christian Democracy, while she began identifying with the lowliest. In 1974 she entered Parliament thanks to the support of the market women and the suburban mothers and wives who had seen her in court as a lawyer defending their men and their rights. Later she began to visit families living in the more difficult areas. However the task that consumed most of her energy was her role as president of the Human Rights Commission of El Salvador, a fundamental reality for knowing the truth about the country’s contemporary history. Expelled from the party, Marianela began to immortalize the cruellest aspect of the regime with her camera, collecting pictures of dead bodies abandoned on roadsides or found buried after days of searching, devastated by torture. The photos served as a response to the despair of the relatives and to document the horror that has the presumption of to deny the evidence. She was civilian victim number 43337, and for a long time after her assassination the dictatorship continued to refer to her as a subversive guerilla, while the abogada del pueblo (the people’s lawyer), also on the choice of non-violence, was in absolute accord with Romero. Although over the years the world has little by little become aware of the young woman’s true story, a new fact has come to light: the Marianela García Villas Association in Sommariva del Bosco, Cuneo, has been able to identify this young martyr’s tomb, found in the main cemetery of San Salvador, in a chapel closed by a gate bearing the inscription Beneficiencia española (indeed, her father was Spanish). “At last – the association commented – it will be possible for anyone to take a flower to her tomb”.
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 17, 2019
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