El Salvador and Honduras have had the highest homicide rates in the world over the past ten years, with Guatemala close behind. Every day more than 1,000 people men, women, and children flee these three countries for North America. Read more...
El Salvador and Honduras have had the highest homicide rates in the world over the past ten years, with Guatemala close behind. Every day more than 1,000 people men, women, and children flee these three countries for North America. Oscar Martinez, author of The Beast, named one of the best books of the year by the Economist, Mother Jones, and the Financial Times, fleshes out these stark figures with true stories, producing a jarringly beautiful and immersive account of life in deadly locations.
Martinez travels to Nicaraguan fishing towns, southern Mexican brothels where Central American women are trafficked, isolated Guatemalan jungle villages, and crime-ridden Salvadoran slums. With his precise and empathetic reporting, he explores the underbelly of these troubled places. He goes undercover to drink with narcos, accompanies police patrols, rides in trafficking boats and hides out with a gang informer. The result is an unforgettable portrait of a region of fear and a subtle analysis of the North American roots and reach of the crisis, helping to explain why this history of violence should matter to all of us."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-02-15
- Reviewer: Staff
Journalist Martínez (The Beast) tenaciously reports piece by piece on the accretion of gang-related violence besetting El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. This book is based on a series of articles he wrote for the website elfaro.net, and each entry details its own escapade." A well-connected mafioso twice escapes the clutches of the state and finally ends up serving time for murder. The bleak story of the paranoid informant's untimely end constitutes its own chapter. Another details how Los Zetas, a Mexican gang, consolidated power in Guatemala, which is crucial background for understanding a police massacre and the subsequent "chess game of criminal politics" analyzed later. Martínez pulls the tarp back from the snake-pit tangle of gang affiliations, offenses, and revenge in overcrowded prisons that lead to periodic massacres. He tells of the perseverance of El Salvador's only forensic investigator in excavating a well, a tale that approaches dark farce. The book enters "strange and impenetrable worlds filled with code words and carnage, in which players function as it were just another day at work." Martínez's reporting reveals shocking failures of the state—particularly of police and courts—but he avoids tidy lessons, preferring to let the intractable issues stand in all their cold brutality. (Mar.)