Lay Down Your Guns
It’s probably unusual for a person to have personally known someone who has had a biography written of his or her life. It’s got to be more unusual still to have known two people whose lives have been remembered in biographies. I’ve known Leicester (Lester) Hemingway and now Dr. Amanda Madrid. Well, technically Lester wrote My Brother, Earnest Hemingway, but his life was closely linked to his brother’s, so it’s definitely semi-biographical. Lay Down Your Guns, written by Greg R. Taylor, is strictly the word-for-word amazing story of Dr. Amanda Madrid of Honduras.
Fortunately, Amanda’s biography continues today while Lester’s and Earnest’s didn’t end so well. I first met Amanda in 1986 when she joined medical mission PREDISAN in Catacamas, Olancho, Honduras. She was not bilingual at that time and I was definitely monolingual. She has advanced well beyond bilingual, having earned advanced degrees in U.S. Universities. I have progressed to, maybe, semi-literate in Spanish.
During my 45 trips to Honduras in support of Mission PREDISAN, I was familiar with bits and pieces of the events touching on Amanda’s life, but Greg R. Taylor’s investigation into details of Amanda’s amazing story from birth into a 13-member family, childhood experiences through adult, and international travels as a Health Systems Consultant, filled in a lot of the gaps in my spotty recollection. For instance, the title of the book comes from Amanda’s courageous confrontation with the drug cartel as they disrupted services of the five mountain clinics for the campasinosin that area; a graphic example of what is known in that culture as eggs/huevos, I think you will catch my drift by reading the book.
I do have a recollection of an event that Taylor doesn’t record that will forever, in my mind, symbolize the incredible character of Dr. Madrid. Honduras has a brutal method for “recruiting” young men into military service. A military duce and a half truck would cruise the streets of a village and snatch young boys of military age and carry them off to boot camp. They made the mistake of snatching a young clinical internist for PREDISAN. Word got back to Amanda, so we went through the streets of Catacamas looking for these military “recruiters.” When we found them, I have the mental image of a 5-foot Mayan in her signature high heels with her hands on her hips, confronting the driver of the military behemoth. Long story short, the driver agreed to release our captured boy, but to save face, he drove to a side street for the release. Amanda diplomatically agreed to this arrangement. I will not include the story of Amanda’s being on a stakeout to recover a stolen PREDISAN vehicle, but I think you have an inkling of her fortitude and character.
On Amanda’s softer side is the story of her adoption of three orphaned children from the mountains. The adoption is mentioned in the book, but the elaboration on the character and accomplishments of her adopted children is not chronicled. All three children have degrees from U.S. colleges or universities. All are bilingual and very successful in their fields. This is literally a story of going from rags to riches.
Lay Down Your Guns records all the obstacles Amanda had to overcome to be where she is today. First, it is very difficult to get a college education when you begin with her background. Second, it is especially difficult if you are a woman. It is very hard to find a story of a single mother who successfully raises a family of such outstanding individuals. Most would have to find this beginning an excuse for underachievement, but Amanda gets to point with pride to her accomplished children/family.
If you like the documentary, Darkest Hour about Winston Churchill, you will love this story of courage and determination to overcome overwhelming obstacles by a 5-foot Mayan Muneca, as her father called her.