LCA Charter Senior Fellow Jim Jennings, of Oklahoma City, is not only an accomplished trial lawyer, he’s also a novelist. Visit jamesallenjennings.com. Jim’s second novel, Mirador, was recently published by Greenpoint Press. In Spanish, the word mirador means viewpoint. In the novel, it’s the name of a small village in Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state. I commend our colleague for his literary achievement, and I recommend his masterful work of historical fiction for your reading. It serves as a reminder of what can happen when a government oppresses its own people and elected leaders fail to live by their oath to uphold their country’s constitution.
On New Year’s Eve, 1994, the indigenous people of Chiapas rose up in violent protest of the injustices inflicted upon them by the Mexican government. For five hundred years they had struggled: first against slavery, then against foreign intervention, then against dictators that used them as cannon fodder and pillaged the wealth of their homeland. In 1992, the government repealed longstanding reform laws, robbing many peasants of the possibility of gaining a piece of land. Hope vanished and rage set in. Los indίgenas took up arms and cried out to the people of Mexico and the governments of the world, “Hoy decimos basta! Today we say enough is enough!”
Under cover of darkness, battalions of a rebel army consisting of no more than three thousand stouthearted men and women launched coordinated attacks across the state of Chiapas. By noon, the insurgent forces of El Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN), the National Zapatista Liberation Army, had seized four county seats, several smaller towns, and numerous ranches and plantations. Before the echo of the opening shots faded, the Zapatistas were using faxes, circulars, and a new mode of communication called the Internet to enlist support for their cause, focus the world’s attention on the wrongs committed against their country’s forgotten people, and explain why they had chosen New Year’s Day to launch their rebellion: January 1 was the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect. The rebels decried the treaty as a death sentence for their traditional, agrarian way of life. For them, the new era promised by politicians would be as bloody as the last.
Thus began what the Zapatistas called The War Against Oblivion, the first revolution in history to be fought on both the battlefield and the World Wide Web. The known dead after a dozen days of bloodshed numbered one hundred fifty-nine, including sixteen soldiers of the Mexican Army, thirty-eight civilian security agents, sixty-seven civilians, and at least seventy Zapatistas. Some say the tally was much higher. Some say a lone American also perished in the fighting. Mirador tells the story of that man, Nate Hunter. The saga begins one year before the Zapatista uprising.
Nate has no desire to visit Chiapas. It’s 1993, dawn of the Internet Age, and his star as a brilliant computer engineer is on the rise. He wants to stay put, focus on work. But his wife, Sarah, a dedicated nurse, wants to save the world. Invited to join a mission trip to the village of Mirador, deep in the Lacandon Jungle, she decides she’s going and Nate won’t let her go alone. He knows the looming enactment of NAFTA is causing unrest among the campesinos and the government is cracking down on protests. The pastor leading the trip insists its safe, but beneath the surface calm, rebellion is brewing, and an army of peasants is preparing for war.
By the time the group reaches Mirador, Nate realizes the trip is a mistake. That evening, Sarah tangles with the leader of a paramilitary group, triggering events that lead Nate deeper into the jungle, to a secret rebel camp, where unforgiving tests and a newfound sense of purpose challenge everything he believes about himself as a husband, lover, fighter, and man.
Honoring the spirit of the ancient Maya and the “war against forgetting” still being waged by los indίgenas of Chiapas today, Mirador portrays one man’s reckoning with love and loss, friendship and betrayal, courage and cowardice, death and rebirth, as he helps a group of rebels in their struggle for justice.
The verdict on Mirador is in. Reviewers have hailed it as a compelling narrative full of suspense, appealing characters and interesting historical events. Others have described it as an exquisitely written and gripping tale of love, obsession and revenge. I think they got it right.
Reviewed by G. Steven Henry