I only learned of Ingrid Betancourt a few years before she was rescued from captivity at the hands of the FARC & I am more than willing to admit that I wept for joy the day it was announced she had been liberated! When I learned that she had written an account of her time in the jungle with the FARC, I just knew that her book had to be my choice for Colombia, for my Global reading challenge.
It took me a while to read this (almost a month), which resulted in lots of questions from my OH about whether I was enjoying it or not, lol. I did enjoy it, if that is a sentiment that can be attached to a book like this? Even Silence Has an End tells of the 6+ years (and a bit before) that Ingrid was in the hands of the FARC. She faced brutality like most of us have never even imagined, forced to live like an animal, subject to the whims of her captors/tormentors & survived with her dignity & sanity intact (something I am not so sure I could manage).
Ingrid begins the story detailing one of her many escape attempts, where she and Clara Rojas escape from the cage they’ve been forced to live in, into the Colombian jungle during a storm. They escape for a few hours, only to be re-captured & subjected to what can only be called torture. Over her time in the hands of the FARC Ingrid escapes 5 times, each time only to be caught & returned, each time to be subjected to verbal, mental & often physical abuse. After her final attempt she & her fellow escapee are made to wear chains around their necks 24hrs a day & are chained to a tree at all times, unless they are marching.
Throughout this wonderful book Ingrid is very self critical, always saying that she could have handled situations better, that she let her pride get in the way, that she was stubborn, etc. I think it would have been so easy to have slipped into the “This is what I was put through & aren’t I great for having survived it?” mentality, but she didn’t. She readily admits that in the jungle the captives all let their greed get the best of them – greed for the best piece of meat, the biggest portion of rice, the least awful place to hang their hammock, and that she was not immune to this.
There are parts of this book where Ingrid almost seems as though she was happy, like when she was learing to weave, but that happiness was always bloodied by the knowledge that her children were growing up without their mother, her husband was with someone else, her parents were getting older & the knowledge that she may not survive this hell she was caught up in. Betancourt tells her story using beautiful language to describe the jungle, and a candour about her ordeal that I fear has not won her many fans amongst her fellow captives.
She readily admits to the hostility that was present a lot of the time in the camps, and that she contributed to that tension, but I also believe that she was treated worse than some of the other captives (& was treated worse by some of the captives), because of who she was & the fact that the French Government was involved in the negotiations for her release. There have been at least 2 other books written by people who were captive at the same time (& often in the same camp) as Ingrid & I understand that some of them paint a not too flattering picture of Betancourt. To that end, I think that she has shown herself to be the better woman, as she refrains from slinging barbs about the people she was captive with.
Having read Even Silence Has an End, I do want to read the other accounts. I do know that no matter what is written in them, I will have much respect & admiration for Ingrid Betancourt – for what she went through & for the dignity she maintained both during captivity & since her release. If you read just one biography in your lifetime, please make it this one!