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Dancing in a Cemetery: Stories from Colombia

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This historical novel is about the dark side of Colombia and its chronic levels of violence which go back to the country's independence from Spain two centuries ago. The story interlaces real characters and gritty events with fictional ones to reveal the complexities of Colombia, the brutality of its many conflicts, and ultimately the human capacity for survival in the fac This historical novel is about the dark side of Colombia and its chronic levels of violence which go back to the country's independence from Spain two centuries ago. The story interlaces real characters and gritty events with fictional ones to reveal the complexities of Colombia, the brutality of its many conflicts, and ultimately the human capacity for survival in the face of adversity. The most recent bout of fratricidal fighting started in 1964 pitching peasant and Marxist insurgencies, principally the FARC and the ELN, against the armed forces and their paramilitary proxies sponsored by large landowners, cattle ranchers, drug cartels, and corrupt politicians. Cold War warriors from the US State Department, Pentagon, and CIA aggravated the violence by fomenting sabotage against groups they considered communist. All sides have been responsible for a drama that has left 250,000 dead, uprooted more than six million peasants (a number higher than the displaced from the ongoing war in Syria), usurped millions of hectares of rural land, littered the countryside with anti-personnel mines, and produced thousands of victims of torture, kidnappings, extortion, and sexual violence. Despite a long-running dirty war and the billions of dollars in US military assistance which went in part toward funding the War on Drugs, the Colombian state was unable to achieve a decisive victory over the guerrillas. Marisa Díaz Torres, tired of her mother's racism, prejudices and obsession to emulate the wealthy elite, leaves her middle class home in Bucaramanga to attend a prestigious university in Bogota. She briefly endures an emotionless marriage which made her question her sexuality before setting out across the hidden and neglected Colombia which she, like most of Colombia's city dwellers, did not know existed. She discovers a land of beauty, kindness and wisdom, and of violence, criminality and rampant corruption where powerful geopolitical forces are at play. She meets people who had been invisible to her in her previous life, each impacting on her to add new layers to the story. An Uruguayan émigré storekeeper, a cynical school teacher long past retirement age and a blind healer, among others, provide her important life lessons and help the reader pull the book's many chronicles together. Throughout, we are provided with an in-depth look at the actions of right-wing paramilitary death squads, leftist guerrillas and drug traffickers. Tensions with neighbouring Venezuela are never far from the surface. Running parallel to Marisa’s story, the son of a respectable rural family joins the police force to help fix the mess the country is in and moves up the ranks. His nemesis in the making is a corrupt detective to whom the end always justifies the means who eagerly participates in extrajudicial killings. In a final showdown, the two stare down each other regarding Marisa which is resolved in an unexpected manner. As a desensitized society inches toward a negotiated peace, Marisa realizes that her fate has been sealed by sinister forces. The reader will develop a strong emotional attachment to Marisa and will not remain indifferent to the story’s ending. The author's career in law-enforcement and criminal intelligence with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police spanned over thirty years. He spent 16 of those years as a police liaison officer in Latin America and the Caribbean, eight of which on assignment in Bogota. He worked in the areas of international drug trafficking, money-laundering, and national security. The book provides insight into Colombia's cocaine-fueled conflicts and addresses questions about the country's human rights situation including sexual violence against women, and why the prospects for peace remain dismal even after a peace accord was signed recently with the country’s largest guerrilla force.


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This historical novel is about the dark side of Colombia and its chronic levels of violence which go back to the country's independence from Spain two centuries ago. The story interlaces real characters and gritty events with fictional ones to reveal the complexities of Colombia, the brutality of its many conflicts, and ultimately the human capacity for survival in the fac This historical novel is about the dark side of Colombia and its chronic levels of violence which go back to the country's independence from Spain two centuries ago. The story interlaces real characters and gritty events with fictional ones to reveal the complexities of Colombia, the brutality of its many conflicts, and ultimately the human capacity for survival in the face of adversity. The most recent bout of fratricidal fighting started in 1964 pitching peasant and Marxist insurgencies, principally the FARC and the ELN, against the armed forces and their paramilitary proxies sponsored by large landowners, cattle ranchers, drug cartels, and corrupt politicians. Cold War warriors from the US State Department, Pentagon, and CIA aggravated the violence by fomenting sabotage against groups they considered communist. All sides have been responsible for a drama that has left 250,000 dead, uprooted more than six million peasants (a number higher than the displaced from the ongoing war in Syria), usurped millions of hectares of rural land, littered the countryside with anti-personnel mines, and produced thousands of victims of torture, kidnappings, extortion, and sexual violence. Despite a long-running dirty war and the billions of dollars in US military assistance which went in part toward funding the War on Drugs, the Colombian state was unable to achieve a decisive victory over the guerrillas. Marisa Díaz Torres, tired of her mother's racism, prejudices and obsession to emulate the wealthy elite, leaves her middle class home in Bucaramanga to attend a prestigious university in Bogota. She briefly endures an emotionless marriage which made her question her sexuality before setting out across the hidden and neglected Colombia which she, like most of Colombia's city dwellers, did not know existed. She discovers a land of beauty, kindness and wisdom, and of violence, criminality and rampant corruption where powerful geopolitical forces are at play. She meets people who had been invisible to her in her previous life, each impacting on her to add new layers to the story. An Uruguayan émigré storekeeper, a cynical school teacher long past retirement age and a blind healer, among others, provide her important life lessons and help the reader pull the book's many chronicles together. Throughout, we are provided with an in-depth look at the actions of right-wing paramilitary death squads, leftist guerrillas and drug traffickers. Tensions with neighbouring Venezuela are never far from the surface. Running parallel to Marisa’s story, the son of a respectable rural family joins the police force to help fix the mess the country is in and moves up the ranks. His nemesis in the making is a corrupt detective to whom the end always justifies the means who eagerly participates in extrajudicial killings. In a final showdown, the two stare down each other regarding Marisa which is resolved in an unexpected manner. As a desensitized society inches toward a negotiated peace, Marisa realizes that her fate has been sealed by sinister forces. The reader will develop a strong emotional attachment to Marisa and will not remain indifferent to the story’s ending. The author's career in law-enforcement and criminal intelligence with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police spanned over thirty years. He spent 16 of those years as a police liaison officer in Latin America and the Caribbean, eight of which on assignment in Bogota. He worked in the areas of international drug trafficking, money-laundering, and national security. The book provides insight into Colombia's cocaine-fueled conflicts and addresses questions about the country's human rights situation including sexual violence against women, and why the prospects for peace remain dismal even after a peace accord was signed recently with the country’s largest guerrilla force.

7 review for Dancing in a Cemetery: Stories from Colombia

  1. 5 out of 5

    BOB RUST

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lilana Laverde

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Talero

  4. 5 out of 5

    Maria Zborovszky

  5. 4 out of 5

    Varouj Pogharian

  6. 5 out of 5

    Varouj Pogharian

  7. 5 out of 5

    Maria Zborovszky

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