The stench seeps through the walls of the morgue. It wafts through schools, businesses and homes, impregnates clothing, sticks in throats and noses, provokes nausea, obliges one to walk faster. In the white building where the smell originates there are 71 bodies on the floor, one on top of the other, waiting their turns for autopsies.In the parking lot, one of those tractor-trailers that usually transports fruit is serving as a holding place for another 74 bodies wrapped in garbage bags and shrouded with adhesive tape bearing the names of the places where they were found.
The hearses arrive every so often with other, recently disinterred bodies. At last count they were 145. The clandestine cemeteries discovered in the municipality of San Fernando … are evidence of the level of decomposition in the narco-war.
—from “The National Decay,” Proceso, April 16, 2011
The language of these women is different: they are always talking about broken hearts, an empty womb, the pain in their souls, feelings and intuitions, the roads irrigated by tears, the lives torn apart, a mother’s love, babies they once had in their cribs. And these women cry—look, they cry for any reason. Even when they rant against the government, which they blame for their insanity.
Now they are blocking Paseo de la Reforma and heading for the Angel of Independence statue. Who would ever think of creating a traffic jam on Mother’s Day? Get closer and listen to what one woman says: “I’m searching for my two children who were lost in Monterrey; they were migrant workers, they left from San Felipe, in Guanajuato state, and they were forced off a bus by masked men.” Or another: “She was my youngest daughter, she was studying at the Tech when they took her away.”
They are mothers with one or more children who have disappeared. There are also sisters, daughters, wives in search of their brother, their father, the husband who was snatched away from them. They came from Chihuahua, Baja California, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Jalisco, Guanajuato, Queretaro and Mexico State, sisters with a war cry: “Mothers, United, Will Never Be Defeated!”
—from “A Protest March With 10,000 Absent,” Proceso, May 14, 2012
“Who did their homework?” the therapist asks the group gathered in the small white chapel of Felipe Angeles, a dangerous neighborhood. None of the students answers. She reminds them that the homework consisted of giving away the clothing of their deceased relative, in order to move forward in the grieving process. Or at least to try to do so.
From the benches a woman comments that “it didn’t feel right” to give away expensive clothes she had bought for her son, a police officer who had stood out for his elegance and neatness, until he was cut down by a hail of bullets. An old man asks if it’s bad to talk every day to the photo of his son, who was gunned down in the street. A worker says she doesn’t have the heart to give away her husband’s things because he’s still missing, but she felt all right donating the belongings of her assassinated son, so that someone else could benefit from them.
“Getting rid of their things doesn’t imply getting rid of them, but you have to let them go,” comments the therapist, who leads one of the grief workshops that have sprung up around this city, considered the epicenter of Mexican narco-violence.
—from “War Against Mourning,” Proceso, June 10, 2010
Translated from the Spanish by Mary Beth Sheridan, NF ’13