Jun. 7, 2014

The epic, Don Fernando's Family, follows Candyman's War

“Chapin” is the slang name for Guatemaltecos. Like “Tico” for Costa Ricans, the name carries insider meaning. It was also the working title for my new book. It is an inside look at a fictional family, instrumental in Guatemala’s politics, economics and insurrection.

The first book, “Candyman’s War” touches on important family themes but focuses on the stark experience of a young, pure-blooded Mayan who returns to Guatemala during the most violent years of the Civil War. “Chapin!” Traces a part of that history through the story of the Hoffman-Zelaya family.

Gustav Hoffman comes to Guatemala in the mid 1930’s. Well-off, he becomes a coffee planter like many of the already present German immigrants and marries the oldest daughter of the oligarch-Zelaya family. Gustav’s Jewishness is not problem for the patriarch but his socialist ideals and his liberal treatment of the indigenous families living on his finca are.

The tensions in Guatemala seethe to the surface with the right-wing coup of 1954. The subsequent legitimization of secret imprisonment and death by oreja (informer) is the spark that ignites revolt. But the groundwork for dissent is centuries old and is echoed in the tensions revealed by Gustav’s presence in the family. Gustav’s oldest son, Wilhelm, now calling himself William, returns from his medical residency in the States in 1976, committed to rejoin the lucha, the struggle, begun by his father.

Thus begins our story. “Trust,” is an opening excerpt from the book.