"From February 4 to 20, 1985, I listened to testimony of some sixty persons, civilians in the north of Nicaragua, who had been the victims of kidnappings, bloody ambushes, rapes, and other kinds of assault by the contras, or who had survived the slaughter of their families or civilian friends.
"All of the accounts of the men and women I listened to, most of them poor, went straight into my note pad or my tape recorder and from there to these pages. I treated the words of these people with the sacred respect due the blood, death, grief, terror, desperation, and tears of the poor. The speakers are innocent, defenseless victims of a truly 'dirty war.' This chronicle is an attempt to gather up their innocent blood, their murdered or violated or shattered lives, their unknown tragedy. Innocence and blood have names - first names and last names, place names and the names of events. But they can be summoned up in a scream - a scream demanding that this war stop, that peace come to the land.
"I was struck by the great detail with which the campesinos, who always spoke to me with grief and sometimes with terror and tears, remembered all these events, all the things that they themselves, their families, their cooperatives or their communities had suffered. They recalled everything with minute exactness, even when they were telling me things that had happened two or three years before. And they knew the importance of an exact account. They knew that this was history. A survivor of a massacre near Wiwili, a man whose whole being spoke of grief, told me, 'You see, I'm alive to tell the tale so that the world will know.'" - From the Introduction