Publisher: Weil Editorial Services, Inc.
Publication Date: January 14, 2012
Format: Trade Paperback, 136pp; eBook
El Aguila is about the cafeteros in Colombia who get forced into growing coca after the bottom drops out of the coffee market. The guerrillas get involved and then all hell breaks loose when the military gets wind of it and tries to force them out. It is told from the eyes of a nineteen-year-old girl who hires a coyote to bring her across the Arizona border after her entire town and family are decimated by heartbreaking bloodshed.
My ex-wife is Colombian, and I spent a summer down there with her family. Her father is a successful cafetero who owns a finca high in the Andes, just above the town of El Aguila. I worked on the farm and busted my ass from sunup until sundown, learning the fine art of coffee farming.
Every Colombian who has read El Aguila was reduced to sobbing tears because the story is so accurate and true, and so many Colombians I know have been affected in some way by the senseless violence that is so rampant in such a beautiful country. Recently, I have decided to give 5% of all proceeds from El Aguila to the Barefoot Foundation, founded for the children of Colombia by Shakira.
Call me stupid, but I really did not understand the horror of the politics in Colombia to the every day coffee farmer or his everyday laborer until I read James Weil’s “El Aguila.” The book really reels you in. I read the whole thing in one 4-hour sitting. I could not put it down. It changed me forever. This eloquent novel is incredibly well researched. I found that out from the Colombian immigrant that manages the property I am moving on to (a 26 acre farm). I asked him if any of his family had been caught up in this. He told me that he had lost all of them. I was heartbroken and gave him a hug. I knew I could never return his losses. They are too many to count. This book should be required reading for high school and college Social Studies students. It is not only a very well written piece of literature; it is also an excellent description of how complex the issues are. The everyday person of Colombia could do nothing, in my opinion, to survive this situation. They have NO WHERE to live the honest hard working life they yearn for. When you read it, you will see what I mean. Your view of illegal immigrants will be forever changed, and you will wonder why your government did not tell you honestly what the situation was when you were a young person. I don’t know about your friends, but all the people I partied with would have boycotted cocaine and started a company selling coffee for higher prices to help the good Colombian people retake their land and live a good, honest life. Seriously, if you are not Colombian, you can not understand the issues in Colombia unless you read this book. It should be required reading. – Heather Akridge
El Aguila, a short, fast-moving novel, plumbs the depths of the Colombian tragedy.
Weil’s work of historical fiction brings the verities of the “war on drugs” to the reader. The book focuses on the little understood story of the Cafeteros de Colombia, and their desperate struggle to survive death and destruction, and preserve their honest way of life.
The characters are as authentic as Steinbeck’s in the Grapes of Wrath. The dramatic lead belongs to María Suárez, the daughter of Jair, the Cafetero, and his wife, Señora Suárez. Jair works for Señor Fernandez, the owner of the finca. Marisel is María’s best friend.
El Aguila’s endearing, simple, hardworking cafetero family, from the mountains of Colombia, become caught up in producing small quantities of coca to offset their deep financial loses growing high-quality coffee for the world market. The market price for quality coffee has crashed. The cartels squeeze them, the drug warriors of the Colombian Military murder them, and the guerillas of the FARC betray them.
Weil is a master storyteller. It is impossible to set El Aguila down. This applies as well to Mr. Weil’s other great work of fiction, Swiss Chocolate. In his capable hands and swift storytelling, the principal actors of this drama play out their lives and roles.
Weil deeply penetrates the Colombian countryside and its small and medium-sized villages and towns. The Cafeteros, as a class, are doomed. Their local economy will be uprooted, their families shattered, their hopes crushed by the inexorable march of the gangsters, the Military, and the “war on drugs.”
El Aguila is as authentic as it can get. A breakthrough in historical fiction. I highly recommend this work. ~ Lawrence Gulotta