“A History of Violence: Living and Dying in Central America” by Oscar Martinez

In America's Backyard: Life and Death in Central America

(Author: Oscar Martinez) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


This book is very informative and gives the reader a wide perspective of the lives people live in countries . If you’ve ever wondered what life in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras is like, this is the book for you, but beware – it’s bloodier and more nightmarish than you can even imagine. In fact, this is a life which can arguably be called worse than the one in war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The proof for this statement is the fact that in Central America we can find the cities with the highest murder rate and also the deadliest gang in the world – Mara Salvatrucha.

Considering the careless and sheltered life some Europeans and Americans live, A History of Violence is an eye-opener for some facts we intentionally don’t want to learn anything about and dismiss because they do not concern us. Therefore, I think that people should think about reading this book or another one on the same topic.

Aside from this, though, the rest is a downfall. I can openly say that I admire Oscar Martinez‘s will to stay in that part of the world and document these events while many others would flee screaming.

However, in all truth, Oscar Martinez is not a gifted writer. Very far from it, actually. At the very beginning he describes his audience and it’s clear that this book is meant for American readers, which I think is downright stupid, because no author should ever limit in such a way the people he or she wants to reach and dismiss all others. Aside from that, it’s obvious that A History of Violence was written in the course of a couple of years and it’s painfully obvious that the author didn’t read it. He continues to repeat himself, explains the same things over and over again, mentions the same people for the first time again and again. We are explained who Chepe Furia is and how many years in prison he got about 20 times, in 5 different chapters Los Zetas are introduced as an organization we don’t know anything about, then as one we do know about, all of a sudden, as if we could forget them in a matter of 8 pages, Martinez explains who they are from the beginning. He does the same thing with his explanations about the sentences for human trafficking, repeating himself in a very unpleasant manner: “a robber would get, say, 10 years, but a human trafficker, a person who sells humans would get 4!!!” Two chapters later: “a pick-pocket would get 10 years, but someone who sells people, a human trafficker, would get 4!!!”

The entire book is written in such a sloppy manner, with the author constantly repeating himself and also failing to choose whether he wants his book to be written in the form of a realistic account of events, or that of a Latin cop drama. He starts chapters as one would start a soap opera, then goes to normal storytelling, then moves back to overly sentimentalist sentences the purpose of which is to get the reader’s sympathy as a cheap tear-jerker. No.


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