Thursday, July 29

How to write about your sister’s femicide


Liliana Rivera Garza was a bright and intelligent woman, talkative and mocking, she was a trustworthy friend, a passionate student of architecture, a charismatic leader, a woman who believed more and more in herself. She was 20 years old when an ex-boyfriend broke into the apartment in Mexico City to which she had moved to go to university and killed her. Ángel González Ramos, the murderer, was never caught and the murder went unpunished. But not in oblivion. Thirty years later, her sister, the writer Cristina Rivera Garza, has created a file in the form of a book that collects her history, which demands justice and traces a journey that takes us from 1990 to the present day, when the echoes of the ‘and the It was not my fault, nor where I was or how I dressed ‘resonate in front of courthouses around the world.

‘Liliana’s invincible summer’ (Random House Literature) takes the title of that phrase by Albert Camus that says: “In the middle of winter I finally learned that there was an invincible summer in me”. Because Liliana was murdered right after she made that particular discovery about her life and decided to end a violent relationship for good. But also because the book explores a new language and way of talking about sexist violence. Rivera Garza introduces us to her sister and introduces us to her world as she recounts her attempt to seek justice 30 years later and tries to connect that particular story with the macho and misogynistic structure that allows it.

“The great dangers of telling stories of violence or writing violence is to emphasize the hegemonic power so much that you end up portraying passive victims who only receive the blows of the world and, on the other hand, pornoviolence, which ends up using the victim doubly “, explains the writer to elDiario.es. There is more: Rivera Garza mentions the challenge of avoiding telling these stories “as if they were extraordinary, isolated events or self-absorbed stories that tell what is incumbent on an individual as if forces that go far beyond oneself were not acting in their story” . In this way, her work connects with the concern and work of several generations of journalists and writers, who for years have sought to denature old stories about sexist violence and create new ones.

It is from the beginning that Liliana’s story connects with that of many other women and families. Cristina Rivera Garza makes us accompany her through the corridors of the courthouse to look for her sister’s file. And then more corridors, and more distant buildings, and other windows and officials who are shattering hopes of finding the document. “When an official told me that the files did not last forever, I was terrified to think that there would be no institutional trace of my sister on earth and I thought that, whether I found it or not, this book had to be that file”, adds. There began the writing process, which began with a meticulous investigation of Liliana’s life.

The guilt and shame of the family

The book is a mixture of “geological layers” that contain letters, book quotes, interviews, descriptions of different places and dates, although the guide to the story is the writing of Liliana herself, who left testimony for years of her thoughts, plans and emotions in diaries, notes or notes. For this reason, Cristina Rivera Garza considers that the book actually has a “co-authorship” that she shares with her sister.

To document himself, Rivera Garza opened the boxes in which his family had kept Liliana’s things after her murder. They had been closed for 30 years. “Who can tell if 30 years is a few years or many years?”, The writer asks in the book. Because Liliana’s story is also one of the guilt and shame that patriarchy throws on women and their families. “You don’t shut your mouth, they shut your mouth,” says the writer.

Or as he describes in the book: “We lower our voices and we seclude ourselves within ourselves, with you inside, so as not to expose yourself to the easy accusation, to the crippled morbid, to the looks of pity. We lowered our voices and walked with foggy steps, shrinking our presence wherever we passed, trying to be once the ghosts that we become over time, in order to avoid the attacks of the scathing, of those predisposed to blame, even of the well-intentioned, against us and against you, who went by our side, hanging by the arm, taking us by the hand “.

All kinds of objects and souvenirs appeared in those boxes. Also the agendas that Liliana used in 1990. From there her sister managed to find her circle of friends, who agreed to “remember.” “The possibility of telling this story in a different way that is not the narrative of the crime of passion relieved them. What happened in 1990 had no name but now it is a femicide,” says Rivera Garza. Thanks to those friendships, the reconstruction of Liliana’s life from those years is detailed in detail. His stories also speak of emotions: of those felt by each other, of the long nights before handing in a job, of the trips, even of the silences, always so significant.

A personal story in context

“For me it was very important that being my sister’s personal story it was also a story that does not escape its time, that is only understood in a context that the book has to bring up by force,” explains the writer. For this reason, the book alludes to the struggle and the achievements of the feminist movement, to its determination to name, to denounce, to raise awareness and appeal to the powerful. It also contains quotes from books that are a reference to understand the phenomenon of sexist violence and that remain embedded in the text as a search for explanations of what was experienced beyond the specific fact that a man committed.

‘Liliana’s invincible summer’ is also a critique of how the system and language “insist on blaming the victim and exonerating the perpetrator.” “We know little about this type of duel. This book is also an invitation to reflect on the complexity of a duel of these characteristics.” If at the time of the murder who “triumphs” is the murderer, says Rivera Garza, the tables have turned: Liliana made sure to record her memory through all her memories and writings and this text does justice that the system does not had given.

Thirty years later, the murderer has not answered for the crime and Liliana’s file still does not appear. But this book is part of something bigger, of a change “that is happening” and that allows us to know personal stories but also to point out the structure that oppresses us. “Things are happening, I see them happening, although the reaction is also very strong. What seems clear is that among the most lucid thoughts we have to reflect on the future are feminisms.”



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