On Dec. 2, 1980 Jean Donovan was shot in the back of the head alongside three nuns and buried in an unmarked grave in El Salvador. Jean was a young American missionary who volunteered to help the destitute people who bore the brunt of El Salvador’s civil war.
The film “Roses in December,” an exploration of the events before and after the tragedy, was shown on Saturday as part of the “Sacred Spaces” art exhibit. The movie follows Donovan from childhood and looks into her motivations to stay in the politically turbulent country. El Salvador’s government policy deliberately suppressed the impoverished. The military was ordered to commit acts of violence against the poor and those aiding the poor.
Donovan felt that she must help feed, clothe, bathe and bury the people because no one else would. Upon some bodies hung signs reading “If you bury this, the same will happen to you.” Yet Donovan felt that she was safe because of her race.
“The blonde, blue-eyed Americans couldn’t get shot,” she said.
Donovan might have lived an easy life with a good job and comfortable amenities in the states but she wanted more. Despite the wishes of her close friends and family, she lived in the dangerous country for many years before her tragic death. In one of her many stirring letters home Jean wrote: “Where else will you find roses blooming in December?”
After her death, the government promised Donovan’s family that it would investigate her death and punish those responsible for the acts. However, the politics of the time prevented justice from occurring. President Ronald Reagan and the American military continued to foster positive relations with El Salvador’s government. The film includes footage of an American colonel and his soldiers toasting a group of men from El Salvador’s military as Donovan’s family fought against the country’s government in court.
Barnard Stone, producer of “Roses in December,” attended the film’s showing on Saturday afternoon. He said his team wanted to show the situation of Donovan’s death in El Salvador to a larger, working-class audience because at the time it wasn’t being given proper attention in the news.
“We weren’t doing a propaganda film,” he said.
He simply wanted to show that the situation was the result of an amalgamation of religion and politics – the two factors were inseparable.