This is probably one of the most moving books I have ever read in my life. It is basically a narrative story of the life of an El Salvadorian women named: Maria Teresa Tula. Maria is a wonderful storyteller and the fact the she is describing her own real life experiences greatly add to the impact of the book.
Most of the chapters in the book are just her telling about her life. She was born a very poor and sickly child, growing up with her mother and grandmother, after her mother had left her abusive husband. This was only the beginning of a very rough and trying life that she would face. She went on to describe her childhood, how other Salvadorian women were treated and the Salvadorian way of viewing women. Raised as a strict Catholic, she was taught by her grandmother at a young age to “act like a proper young women.”
From there on she continues to talk about her adolescence where she quickly learned about the threat of physical abuse and molestation towards young girls. She did not continue with school pat the age of 9 and in her small job of working in the local market she was confronted with true and absolute poverty on a daily basis. She got pregnant at age 15. At 16 she had her first fist fight with her abusive physically brother. And at 17 met the father of her other future children. While with this man, Rafael Canales, she learned first hand the hardships of poor domestic life. She also learned to assert herself even towards her own husband.
In 1978, the year I was born, Maria Teresa joined a human rights group called CO-MADRES. (The Mothers and Relatives of Political Prisoners, Disappeared and Assassind of El Salvador) Due to her husband being jailed and severely tortured after a sugar mill strike she found herself unsuspectingly thrown into a political arena. It is her work with this organization that begins to completely consume her life and is the core of the entire book.
Once aligned with this organization Maria’s eyes are opened to the bigger picture of political oppression in her country. She, along with many other women of El Salvador, watch as hundreds of their men are unjustly jailed, tortured and disappeared. She was also a witness to the inhuman...
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After saying all this, it is hard for me to find a weakness. The only minor weakness that I could see would be that of intense emotion. The way that this book is written is such that it is truly soaked with emotion. This being a first hand account also added the level of intimacy one feels when reading this, and for some this may translate into uncomfortable feelings. It is also clear that Maria does express her own personal opinions, on her government, on her views of women’s roles in society, and especially on the American government. Maria does use the words “they” and “them” to describe Americans sometimes and some may feel that her generalizations are unfair, especially seeing as how she did receive support from sympathetic Americans while in the US. Some may also feel that she is overly critical and excessively faulting the US for the events in El Salvador, however all I could say to people who feel this way is; it would be very difficult to not find American policies and actions accountable for many unthinkable tragedies all over Latin America. Personally however, I do not feel that these small weaknesses in any way, take away from the strength of the book or her story.
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