Throwing Stones at the Moon: Narratives from Colombians Displaced by Violence


Edited by Sibylla Brodzinsky and Max Schoening

Foreword by Ingrid Betancourt

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For nearly five decades, Colombia has been embroiled in internal armed conflict among guerrilla groups, paramilitary militias, and the country’s own military. Civilians in Colombia face a range of abuses from all sides, including killings, disappearances and rape — and more than four million have been forced to flee their homes. The oral histories in Throwing Stones at the Moon describe the most widespread of Colombia’s human rights crises: forced displacement. Speakers recount life before displacement, the reasons for their flight, and their struggle to rebuild their lives. Among the narrators:

MARIA VICTORIA, whose fight against corruption as a hospital union leader led to a brutal attempt on her life. In 2009, assassins tracked her to her home and stabbed her seven times in the face and chest. Since the attack, Julia has undergone eight facial reconstructive surgeries, and continues to live in hiding.

DANNY, who who at eighteen joined a right-wing paramilitary’s training camp. Initially lured by the promise of quick money, danny soon realized his mistake and escaped to ecuador. he describes his harrowing escape and his struggle to survive as a refugee with two young children to support.



“Victims’ Voices From Colombia: A Review of Throwing Stones At The Moon” (Huffington Post, 7/10/2012)

“Colombia’s Displaced People Speak Out in New Oral History Collection” (Truthout, 9/11/2012)

“Review: Throwing Stones at the Moon” (Foreign Policy in Focus, 9/12/2012)

“Bleak first-person accounts of violence and displacement in Colombia over many decades.

In a lawless struggle for power over the rural farmers and laborers who make up the landscape of this deeply scarred, war-torn country, left-wing guerrillas emerging in the 1960s and ’70s and the paramilitary right-wing opposing them from the ’80s onward, fueled by the drug profit and mafia cartels, have been responsible for thousands of senseless deaths and the upheaval of families and villages. Editors Brodzinsky and Schoening have compiled a useful, moving set of oral histories of this horrendous period of bizarre, seemingly arbitrary killings and intimidation. Instilling fear seemed to be the aim of the sudden appearance within a village of the ragtag left- or right-wing paramilitary men, who dragged people out of their homes to rape, maim and murder. Remembering the terror visited on her village of El Salado forms Emilia Gonzalez’s opening narrative—the paramilitary forces raped her 12-year-old daughter and herded the villagers onto the soccer field for a killing spree. Later, the victims might spot their tormentors in the army purportedly guarding the villages; there seemed to be no end to the absurdity of the violence. Death threats, forced planting of coca, bombings, maiming by mines, deliberate dismemberment, assassination of trade unionists and people seeking government redress and protection, and persecution of Colombian refugees who fled to Ecuador—these stories express a horrific experience and plea for humanitarian intervention. A helpful history of Colombia by Winifred Tate, timeline and glossary of terms close this extensive, poignant study.

A valiant effort of research and consolidation.”

— Kirkus Reviews

“The soon-to-be-released book, Throwing Stones At The Moon reads like a collection of literary short stories, but, in this case, the stories are both real and horrifying. The stories of those gathered in [Throwing Stones at the Moon] are told by the Colombian victims of human rights abuses themselves…Given that these voices are rarely heard, this book is invaluable.”

— Dan Kovalik, Huffington Post


This project made possible in part by support from the National Endowment for the Arts.