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Narratives from Colombians Displaced by Violence

edited by Sibylla Brodzinsky & Max Schoening

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-936365-91-3
Publisher: McSweeney’s

Bleak first-person accounts of violence and displacement in Colombia over many decades.

In a lawless struggle for power over the rural farmers and laborers who make up the landscape of this deeply scarred, war-torn country, left-wing guerrillas emerging in the 1960s and ’70s and the paramilitary right-wing opposing them from the ’80s onward, fueled by the drug profit and mafia cartels, have been responsible for thousands of senseless deaths and the upheaval of families and villages. Editors Brodzinsky and Schoening have compiled a useful, moving set of oral histories of this horrendous period of bizarre, seemingly arbitrary killings and intimidation. Instilling fear seemed to be the aim of the sudden appearance within a village of the ragtag left- or right-wing paramilitary men, who dragged people out of their homes to rape, maim and murder. Remembering the terror visited on her village of El Salado forms Emilia Gonzalez’s opening narrative—the paramilitary forces raped her 12-year-old daughter and herded the villagers onto the soccer field for a killing spree. Later, the victims might spot their tormentors in the army purportedly guarding the villages; there seemed to be no end to the absurdity of the violence. Death threats, forced planting of coca, bombings, maiming by mines, deliberate dismemberment, assassination of trade unionists and people seeking government redress and protection, and persecution of Colombian refugees who fled to Ecuador—these stories express a horrific experience and plea for humanitarian intervention. A helpful history of Colombia by Winifred Tate, timeline and glossary of terms close this extensive, poignant study.

A valiant effort of research and consolidation.