Alfredo Molano’s The Dispossessed: Chronicles of the Desterrados of Colombia takes a striking glance at the social problems, of much of the population of Colombia. A very interesting approach is taken as to not include the drug wars in the narrations. This way strengthens the focus onto hardships of families all around Colombia who may or may not be working in coca fields or somehow in line withthe production of drugs. It is important to recognize simply that many families have become very impoverished and forced out of their homes through violent acts or the fear of the violence of various military groups. Molano speaks for the desterrados and shines a much needed light on important issues that plague many people everywhere in Latin America. The book includes stories which Molano allowsdesterrados to tell in first person, making the issues more relatable and powerful. All give great examples of the inequality and military violence which forces innocent families, communities or sometimes regions to flee for their own safety, not knowing if the next place they settle will mean salvation. The major theme is unnecessary violence which shakes and transforms each protagonist. Thereis always a sense of devastation and uneasiness lingering through the lines of the stories.
Although each story is set in a different area of Colombia (Boca del Cajambre, Pinillos, Ibagué…), different periods between the late 1980’s to 2000, and different communal and financial backgrounds, they all share the same feeling of devastation and loss of control. Ángela, a younger narrator inMolano’s book, shows her fear on her sleeve towards the end of her excerpt when she shares, “My father wants to go back…because he says everything is going to be difficult here. But I don’t want to go back” (77). For the desterrados, there is a constant feeling of struggle between whether their original home or the home they make when they are forced to leave is the safer option. It is obvious andfrightening that the dispossessed people cannot feel safe due to the ongoing violence of the paramilitaries as well as the guerillas. Either side of the violence could attack any innocent barrio at any time. The violence forces some people into hiding in the wilderness where there is no chance of stability. Toñito writes, “I ran until I couldn’t hear the screams anymore” (105), but later he realizesthe jungle will not save him either, “…I thought to myself, no, it’s better to go back and look for death than wait for it to find me” (107). The people of Colombia exemplify the common saying, “stuck between a rock and a hard place” and Molano takes advantage of that when he writes the pages of these stories.
Molano’s writing is fair in that he writes of both violent groups bringingviolence to the barrios. One of his strengths is trying to show the scope of the entire problem of violence in Colombia. The guerillas are professional and thorough in their violence, expelling those who do not follow their guidelines or are coming in the way of their business. The paramilitaries show their fear of the guerilla takeover by raiding residents using violence against barrios at a time whenthere is suspected guerilla interference or control. Ninfa expresses how she “will never forgive the guerrillas…” (135) when they murder her husband for speaking with the wrong people. “The same people who take the measurements…to see who the killer are the ones who committed the crime” (159) Molano writes for the victims in his story, Osiris. No matter which force is the cause of deaths andheartache the victims are always the same: innocent citizens of small communities. Molano paints the landscapes in blood to come back to the common theme of unnecessary violence explained throughout these narrations. Through these passages the reader must confront themselves about why the violence cannot be controlled by the innocent. His characters try to remain strong but with every death they...
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