In Guatemala the terrorists won. This striking assertion is the underlying theme of Daniel Wilkinson’s Silence on the Mountain. Part travelogue, part historical thriller, and part chronicle of self-awakening, the book does indeed resonate with “big picture” subjects such as terrorism, globalization, human rights, and migration. Ultimately, though, the book concerns the struggles mounted by the great majority in Guatemala to merely survive.

The legacy of inequities from the colonial and national periods notwithstanding, this story begins in the time christened the “Ten Years of Spring.” From 1944 to 1954, Guatemala was ruled by a legitimately elected government for the first time in its history. This was the nation’s only experience with a government that truly favored the well-being of the greater part of the population over the fortunes of a few elite families. The story of the CIA-sponsored ouster of...

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