Review: Searching For Everado: A Story of Love, War and the CIA in Guatemala

By Jennifer K Harbury, Warner Books, 1997

Proletarian writers

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Searching For Everado is a true story set during the revolutionary uprising of the Mayan peasantry against the Guatemalan military regime in the early 1990s.

It is a love story between an unlikely couple. Jennifer Harbury (the author) is a white, middle-class North American woman, a civil rights lawyer who travelled to Guatemala to collect live testimonies of torture and repression by the military regime in support of the asylum cases of Guatemalan refugees in the US. Her lover, Everado, was a Mayan peasant, and comandante of a military unit of the ORPA (Revolutionary Organisation of the People in Arms) resistance movement.

The history of the Guatemalan struggle is, in its essence, no different to that of countless other colonised lands. The imperialist power in the region, the US, deciding that the democratically-elected government was not acting in its interests, invaded and replaced the president with a military regime in 1954 “at the request of the United Fruit Company” .

The description of what followed will be familiar: “Guatemala was your country, some 80 percent Mayan, yet you and the others lived like prisoners or worse. You had no lands, no money, no representative and no rights. The conquistadors had taken everything with their steel swords and gunpowder, and their descendants now lived happily on the great plantations, mocking you for your colour and culture, killing those who sought to rise up to seek their lands or ask for a wage that would feed their children.” A peasant uprising began in around 1957 and was harshly repressed.

At the time these events were taking place, the revolutionary forces were gaining ground and had forced the military regime to the negotiating table. Shortly afterwards, Everado went missing in action following a guerrilla attack and the army announced that a combatant had been killed and buried. Receiving conflicting reports describing the dead guerrilla, Jennifer became convinced that Everado had in fact been taken alive by the army.

There began her very public search for Everado. Using her US passport and white skin as a ticket and shield, Jennifer launched a brave attempt to single-handedly bring the Guatemalan military regime to account for their crimes against the people.

Utilising ‘human rights organisations’ and the highest courts in Guatemala and the US, obtaining audiences before the US ambassador and Senate and Congress committees and, finally, following a hunger strike, an audience with the Guatemalan Minster of Defence, her diplomacy battle spanning three years was ultimately unsuccessful. Everado’s death was confirmed, but not before it was revealed that he had indeed been captured and tortured by the Guatemalan regime, with the knowledge and assistance of the CIA.

It was then that Jennifer came face to face with the reality of the US role in Guatemala and the support and complicity of the US for the crimes of the military against the people of Guatemala.

More than just one woman’s story, Searching For Everado is a powerful and moving exposure of the dirty role of imperialism in supporting, funding and profiting from the repression of the exploited masses in the interest of capitalist superprofits.

More than just a love story, Searching For Everado is an uplifting and inspiring account of the determination and courage of an oppressed people fighting for freedom and self determination.

Through the author’s account of her time spent in the mountains of Guatemala with the revolutionary forces, the reader comes to understand what forces bring these men and women to the mountains to fight their oppressors, and to understand the life of unremitting hardship that they are prepared to adopt as, armed with a vision of a bright future for their people, they sacrifice everything that they hold most dear in the fight for freedom.

Revolutionaries such are these are fighting for a better future for the whole of humanity, and their example cannot but galvanise revolutionaries here to strive harder in their struggle in order not to let down those who have given so much.

In the book, the vision of a new society built on equality and free from exploitation is brought to life in the bravery, self sacrifice, determination and humanity of the men and woman fighting side by side for their freedom.