"Enthralling, uplifting, harrowing, and heartbreaking."

by Eric Bullard, Sunday, October 11, 2020, 13:57 (9 days ago) @ JohnnyJ

Hello, JohnnyJ! And thanks for your question! When I first found Todos Santos de las Cuchamatanes, Guatemala in 1995, I felt like I had finally found the paradise I had been searching for my entire life. It was a small, Mayan Indigenous village far removed from the modern-day world sitting at eight thousand feet in the Southern Sierras surrounded by towering peaks. There were no phones there, no T.V., electricity sometimes, no traffic, (two buses a day only) no internet, bank, ATM, or any of the other “junk” that cluttered up the “civilized” world. It was just like I described it in, “ZIHUATANEJO, a true story of exile, love, war, and murder south of the border.” There was a simplicity, innocence, and friendliness there I had never seen before!
Throughout 1995 through 2002 I often spent weeks and sometimes months at a time living there, always with my friends Polo and Nicolasa Mendoza and their eight kids. And they were some of the happiest times of my entire life: living in a small adobe hut with Mayan Indians in their traditional dress, hiking in the beautiful mountains that surrounded the village, exploring the traditional Mayan culture, the incredible market, and all (room, bed, and three square meals) for under five dollars, U.S. a day! It was truly amazing, a paradise!
But when the murders took place that I mentioned in my book, I was actually 100 miles away up in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Hence, the disclaimer in the epilogue of the book. Receiving the news from a friend who was in Todos Santos at the time though, I quickly boarded a bus and went south directly to Todos Santos where I interviewed eyewitnesses and everyone who had had anything to do with the incident. So, if I wasn’t there, why did I write the ending of, “ZIHUATANEJO, a true story of exile, love, war, and murder south of the border,” like I was there? I mean, after all, the title does say “a true story.”Well, first of all, everything else in the book did actually happen just like I wrote it: the Guatemalan War stuff and my involvement, the problems with my Mexican wife, her threats to kill me, my boss getting kidnapped and murdered, etc.
But when the Todo Santos murders took place, and I was writing the ending of my first book, “THE ASHRAM, a true story of enlightenment and the dark night of the soul,” in 2000, I was so overcome with grief and horror by what had happened that I put myself in Todo Santos at the time of the murders and wrote the murders as the ending of that book. It made a GREAT ending to that book! Even if it was fictionalized. But eventually, as I published that first book, I deleted the Todos Santos ending because it was inappropriate for the book. But I kept those four chapters about the murders on my computer because I thought they were some of my best writing, ever! I couldn’t just throw them away! Plus, the Polo Mendoza part was awesome. It still brings a tear to my eye every time I read It. I love that man.
Almost twenty years later, as I was writing “ZIHUATANEJO, a true story of exile, love, war, and murder south of the border” and I needed a great ending for the book, I just automatically added the Todos Santos murders that I still had sitting on my computer. It was a perfect ending to the book too! So, maybe I should have called it: “ZIHUATANEJO, a mostly true story of exile, love, war, and murder south of the border!” Thanks again for your question and interest in the story!

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