Even Silence Has an End
My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle
Born in Bogotá, raised in France, Ingrid Betancourt at the age of thirty-two gave up a life of comfort and safety to return to Colombia to become a political leader in a country that was being slowly destroyed by terrorism, violence, fear, and a pervasive sense of hopelessness. In 2002, while campaigning as a candidate in the Colombian presidential elections, she was abducted by the FARC. Nothing could have prepared her for what came next. She would spend the next six and a half years in the depths of the jungle as a prisoner of the FARC. Even Silence Has an End is her deeply personal and moving account of that time. Chained day and night for much of her captivity, she never stopped dreaming of escape and, in fact, succeeded in getting away several times, always to be recaptured. In her most successful effort she and a fellow captive survived a week away, but were caught when her companion became desperately ill; she learned later that they had been mere miles from freedom.
The facts of her story are astounding, but it is Betancourt's indomitable spirit that drives this very special account, bringing life, nuance, and profundity to the narrative. Attending as intimately to the landscape of her mind as she does to the events of her capture and captivity, Even Silence Has an End is a meditation on the very stuff of life-fear and freedom, hope and what inspires it. Betancourt tracks her metamorphosis, sharing how in the routines she established for herself-listening to her mother and two children broadcast to her over the radio, daily prayer-she was able to do the unthinkable: to move through the pain of the moment and find a place of serenity.
Freed in 2008 by the Colombian army, today Betancourt is determined to draw attention to the plight of hostages and victims of terrorism throughout the world and it is that passion that motivates Even Silence Has an End. The lessons she offers here-in courage, resilience, and humanity-are gifts to treasure.
Among the things detailed in the book:
- Betancourt's memory is almost photographicshe gives a day by day account of how she had to acclimate to life imprisoned in the Amazon jungle: kidnapped as she was campaigning for the presidency of Colombia (the daughter of an international diplomat and Colombian senator) to living in camps infested with disease, limited food, and sanitary conditions that amounted to holes dug in the ground and covered with dirt. She frequently slept in a "cage," side by side with fellow prisoners (men and women) on wooden boards (if lucky), or simply on the ground. Regularly chained by the neck to a tree, not permitted to talk or be spoken to, Betancourt depicts in astonishing detail and in moving prose how years of humiliation, abuse, and starvation can work to strip away that which makes us feel human.
- Because of her status as a former presidential candidate, Betancourt was often singled out for particular humiliationsshe was sometimes not allowed to bathe, was denied medical care for a chronic hepatitis condition (from which she almost dies), and made to endure years of cruel punishments from an assortment of sadistic guards. Betancourt goes into riveting detail about her escape attempts, the first one with her former political aid Clara Rojas (who was kidnapped with her), their re-capture, and the slow unraveling of their relationship.
- Betancourt describes the physical toll of living in the jungle for six and a half years: she and her companions were constantly menaced by an assortment of venomous spiders, ants, and snakeseverything the Amazon had to offer. Her closest friend and fellow captive was a diabetic who often went into shock from lack of insulin. Betancourt saves his life on a number of occasions with secreted packets of sugar, and at one point must witness his near-fatal heart attack (about which her captors did nothing to help). She made a later escape attempt with this man, survives a week in the jungle, only to be recaptured and harshly punished.
- Betancourt gives an emotional account of how the human spirit can disintegrate in captivity: hunger, physical exhaustion from forced marches, the lack of medical care, and the constant threat of violence and execution reduce her and her fellow captives to their basest behavior. Rarely described so eloquently or in such detail, the world Betancourt recreates is filled with jealousy, paranoia, and petty grievances that turn good people into enemies. But under the bleakest conditions possible, Betancourt explains how she found an inner strength and spirituality that, miraculously, sustain her. We witness a soul-changing transformation, and accompany her on her life-or-death struggle (literally) to remain human. This is perhaps the most striking quality of the book, for very few people can convey this as powerfully as Betancourt does here.
- Betancourt for the first time talks about her introduction to the three American hostages held with her and her impressions of them. Until now, she has never addressed these relationships, or the accusations one of the Americans made against her in the press.
Even Silence Has an End is a meditation on the very stuff of lifefear and freedom, hope and what inspires it. Today Betancourt is determined to draw attention to the plight of hostages and victims of terrorism throughout the world and it is that passion that motivates Even Silence Has an End. The lessons she offers herein courage, resilience, and humanityare gifts to treasure.
Born December 25, 1961, in Bogotá, Colombia, Ingrid Betancourt was a politician and presidential candidate celebrated for her determination to combat widespread corruption. In 2002 she was taken hostage by the FARC, a brutal terrorist guerrilla organization. For more than six and a half years, the FARC held her hostage in the Colombian jungle. She was rescued on July 2, 2008.