Once during the war, what my people now call La Agitación Civil, there was a small farming village unfortunately located in an important part of our country. The village was situated in the Valle del Universo, the cultural and historical birthplace of the nation, where the farmers tended the valuable soybean crop. It was also strategically located near the edge of the forest where the government believed a majority of the EEP guerrillas lived and operated.
Due to the soybean crop, the nation’s primary agricultural export, the land was of immense importance to the government. It was estimated that prior to and during the war, the soybean was almost as valuable as the country’s oil and iron ore, approximately responsible for three-fourths of all agricultural exports. (Not until the Great Chinese Panic would it lose its value.) As such, the EEP would perform small attacks to either steal harvested crops, or set fire to large sections of the farmland, often killing off many of the National Army (EN) soldiers in the operations. Since the Villalba-Peña government was fighting factions in practically every region of the country, the EN was not as effective in eradicating any of the factions. By the time the war reached its second year, and all sides realized the end was nowhere near its point, the EEP changed its tactics slightly. It focused on the export business, too, and stopped burning the lucrative crop.
It planned mostly successful missions to kill off EN soldiers and leach large quantities of the soybean crop through the blackmarket, which in turn funded its resistance. Due to the unorganized, chaotic command of the EN (by the President himself), it took sometimes as long as a month before new troops could return to the area and reclaim control of the land. This way, the village changed hands on a regular basis throughout the war. On one or more occasions, the EN would overrun the guerrillas and lay claim to the territory in the morning, only to lose it again that very night.
This carried on for some time.
President Villalba-Peña was convinced the reason for his army’s consistent failures and constant back-and-forth was because the villagers were assisting the EEP. The truth behind this was a little different and more difficult to determine. Setting aside strategy and just focusing on the relationship between the guerrillas and villagers, the complexities reveal themselves through the horrible poetry of this conflict. We will never know exactly how these farmers viewed the fighters on either side, or the war that pitted them in the center of a maelstrom.
In truth, they were most likely relieved when the EEP stopped burning the crops, which drove them into further debt with Monsanto and threatened to destroy their homes and livelihood; but this did not mean a majority of the villagers favored the guerrillas, especially to the point of becoming militarily involved. No, some were likely sympathetic to the revolutionaries while others were nationalists. At least one or two sons must have been drafted to protect the government, while others (including daughters) ran into the forest to join the resistance. More so, they were almost certainly concerned whether the drought would extend into its eighth year, or if those goddamned langostas would make their way further west through the valley towards their crop. They probably hoped that year would be a little less hard than the previous one, fully expecting the opposite.
They existed in the world at a time that was much like the rest: cruel and indifferent about it: and their lives ended in much of the same way as all the other nameless faces positioned out in that vacuum of the empty past. They suffered at the hands of the human struggle and their voices were never heard. Their stories will only be remembered through the conjuration of history.
And yet, this does not make their lives any less real, or what happened to them any less wrong.