Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal, and Forgetting in Guatemala
By Daniel Wilkinson
While researching for a documentary on the immigration crisis in Guatemala, I came across the reference of this book being one of the best books on the Guatemalan civil war, which lasted thirty-six-years and claimed some 200,000 people, the vast majority of whom died (or “disappeared”) at the hands of a U.S.-backed military government. The title sounded familiar, so I checked out my bookshelves and, low-and-behold, it surfaced and I’m so glad it did.
The author was a young human rights worker, and the story begins in 1993, when the author decides to investigate the arson of a coffee plantation’s manor house by a band of guerrillas. This scene was familiar, as my wife’s family also had a coffee plantation in the piedmont region of Guatemala. We stayed at the “big house” many times during our initial courting period in the 1970’s. I wrote an article, “My Life in the Land of the Eternal Spring,” in which I reflect on the gap of expectations between what our four-year-old daughter could expect in life in contrast to that of the more than a dozen worker children peering in a screen door of the big house. They were looking at the new puppy my daughter received for Christmas and the many colorful packages under the Christmas tree. The tranquility and beauty of the lush gardens surrounding the big house were counterbalanced by the dismal conditions of the plantation workers, who were part of a feudal labor structure that offered opportunities for advancement...