Authors: Ingrid Betancourt
To Susanna Lea, who inexhaustibly sustained my writing and my soul.
FARC word for the makeshift toilets they dug in the ground for us.
“Those sons of bitches oligarchs who steal the poor man’s silver, / Those ill-bred bourgeois, we’ll destroy them all, we’ll destroy them all.”
A popular hot drink made up of water, flour, and sugar.
“I don’t think you’re an old son of a bitch. I want to ask your pardon. I know that you are a good person!”
The official initials are FARC-EP, which in Spanish stands for Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces- People’s Army.
In Colombia, this is a polite way to address someone and replaces “Madam” or “Sir.”
means “chopped off” in Spanish.
Lively music from Valledupar on the Caribbean coast.
” is the FARC term used to describe political prisoners who can be exchanged for FARC prisoners held in Colombian prisons.
“The forest” in the peasants’ vernacular.
The American show
was based on the Colombian series
Yo so Betty, la fea
“Look out, shit! It’s the Fat Pig!”
“Look up there! The Fat Pig is overhead!”
“It’s the vultures. That’s how they look at us, and then they bomb us.”
is a property.
Because he dealt with “the masses,” meaning the peasants, the people living in the region.
A partner or girlfriend in FARC jargon.
Meaning “bull’s blood,” the name of a tree in Amazonia, with a wood particularly prized for its easy combustibility.
A large tree, the Amazonian version of the African baobab, it can grow up to 230 feet tall, and is also known as a kapok.
Communist university named after Patrice Lumumba, the Congolese independence leader.
Known as the massacre of Urrao; it took place on May 5, 2003.
is a small boat.
“It’s me, Luis Eladio, Luis Eladio Pérez. We were senators at the same time.”
“Are you Clarita?”
A colloquial term of affection among Colombians.
Chopped pork and chicken, cooked with rice and corn, mixed with boiled eggs and carrots, reheated in a banana-leaf wrap.
Jorge used “madame” in French in deference to my French origins, and as a term of endearment.
“Prisoners! Count, hurry up!”
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This is another word for the radio “brick.”
“Neither the food you have eaten nor your dancing can be taken away from you.”
The Plan Patriota, a plan implemented by President Uribe to capture the leaders of the FARC.
Pejorative term the guerrillas use to designate a girl who sleeps with a commander for the perks associated with her “rank.”
Partner, a term used to designate a boyfriend.
Toads. In the slang of young Colombians and schoolkids, a
is a snitch.
The name given to the negotiations with the FARC to obtain an exchange of prisoners.
“He who laughs last laughs best.”
A wild boar, greatly appreciated by the guerrillas for its meat.
“I have all the ammunition.”
“It doesn’t matter, comrade, give it to me.”
“Old woman! Get lost over there, behind the guys who are cutting the wood. Don’t move from there until we order you to.”
An elevation in the middle of the Llanos, between the Andes and the jungle.
He was the guerrilla who had accompanied Sombra on the guitar during the serenade, the third in command after Alfredo and Sombra.
“Life is a lottery, lottery, lottery.”
is a sort of fresh farmer cheese, while
are like tortillas, made with unleavened flour.
High elevations in the Andes.
I met three commanders called Cesar: El Mocho Cesar, who was present at my capture; Young Cesar, the first commander who was assigned to us; and this Cesar, member of the Oriental Bloc under Mono Jojoy’s command, chief of the First Front.
The FARC liberated a group in 2001.
Colombian folk dance, originally performed by slaves from the high Magdalena, in the city of Monpox; it is inspired by African songs using Caribe Indian and Spanish instruments.
Near San Vicente del Caguan.
“You look like a duck!”
“All of this belongs to the FARC.”
“The FARC did this.”
Welcome to Freedom.
Mechnanic in charge of the motor.
designates a dwelling place (tent and bed). The word
is used to designate a bed built on the ground. Sometimes
can be used interchangeably.
A small stream.
Another slang term for leishmaniasis.
The commander, in this case Enrique, alias Gafas.
A native hut, with a roof made of palm leaves.
A brown square of sugar.
A giant Amazonian caiman.
Wood used for cooking that will burn, even when wet.
Giant Amazonian otters.
Different sorts of gnats
A superior in charge of the changing of the guard.
“Old bitch, do you want them to kill you?”
Displaced people from the war between paramilitaries and guerrillas.
“Girl, I’m very proud of you.”
I have many nicknames for Pinchao.
Microscopic red ants who defend themselves by pissing acid.
Cheese bread made with yucca flour.
A special dish from the central Andean region, it is potato soup with chicken and sweet corn.
A dessert of sweet smooth caramel paste.
Giant, poisonous ants.
“I want to use
to talk to you.”
“You are already doing so.”
Captain Julián Guevara fell ill in 2006 because the FARC refused to treat him; he died shortly after that. He was in a camp not far from ours that was under the command of Enrique, too.
“I am the man of gloom—the widower—the unconsoled . . .” From the poem “El Desdichado” (The Disinherited). Gérard de Nerval,
, trans. Richard Sieburth (UK: Penguin Group, 1999), 363.
“What blossoms in a tree finds life from what the tree keeps buried.” From the poem “Soneto” (Sonnet) by Francisco Luis Bernárdez (translation courtesy of the author).
From the poem “Para Todos” by Pablo Neruda.
“In a curtain.”
is actually a coati, but the animal is called different names in different regions of the country.
“We are the Colombian army! You are free!”