Janie narrates how she became the popular rebel leader known as “La chele” to a son she's never known.
For nineteen years, she's avenged her husband's death; a famous Salvadoran leftist poet murdered by Colonel Arguello of the Arguello coffee dynasty. Now, she's fighting the last battle of her life in a country that isn't hers – a disease called Mal de Chagas that leaves her dying and desperately trying to expose the secrets of the Arguello coffee dynasty, so Colonel Arguello loses any chance to become president of El Salvador. Will her son understand why a mother abandons her only child to take down a corrupt politico and learn who his parents really were?
Ayyy mi’ijo, as you gaze upon my plight, I know you do not understand...for I am no longer the woman I once was, nor will I ever be...
And as I sit here before you as a woman in ruin, without a country to shelter my bare shoulders, and without a prayer of hope seeding my soul; let me tell you how I became the person I am today – “Janie” or “La Chele.”
I – the woman who inspires antipathy and disgust in those who feel my “treasonist campaigns” brought the fangs of communism to “decent” folks in Central America.
I – the traitor they love to credit with the murders of so many and who they insist destroyed so much government property.
I – the criminal they have listed now on Interpol to ensure I have no entry to any other countries; nor any amnesty or asylum.
And I – the mother so many would string up and hang, because they insist I abandoned my only son to lead a revolution.
And mi'ijo, I'm sure by the look in your eyes that much of what they say has already infected your ears. I can also see your disgust over enduring the smells of my condition with the mustard plasters they use to treat me from that damned chinche bug that bit me. That flat black, piercing-sucking mouth part that fed on my face that day. That sickening creature with the white markings on the wings – wings that rest flat over the insect's back with that black spot between the wings like and omen. That sickening beast that finally took me down, years later, when an entire army couldn't capture me in my hay day. When mediocre people learn what I am dying from, they will be thrilled. For I'm sure they would love to have done the chinche's work.
Lying here on my death bed with my malaise and filmy eyes to which I can barely admire you; remnants from that insect that sucked my blood and those insects that sucked my soul in those days in the jungles, fighting. Still in hiding from those who would sooner rip me to shreds and feed me to lions, than bite their tongues to keep from telling you the truth of why I became the infamous female rebel they call La Chele.