Rivers of Blood: On Guillermo Fernández García

April 18, 2012   •   By Dolores Dorantes

Photo:  Arturo Campos Cedillo for La Jornada Jalisco

ON MARCH 31st, 2012, the poet and translator Guillermo Fernández García was found beaten to death in his apartment in the central Mexican city of Toluca. His mouth had been taped, his hands tied. Computers and other valuables were allegedly left untouched. In addition to his own poetry, Fernández was widely admired for his translations of Italo Calvino, Alberto Moravia, Natalia Ginzburg, Antonio Tabucchi, and many others. An anthology of his work is online here.  He was 79 years old.

Dolores Dorantes, who wrote the eulogy reprinted below, is a poet and journalist. Until March of 2011, she lived in Ciudad Juárez, where she worked promoting autobiographical writing among marginalized, vulnerable and incarcerated women. After receiving death threats, Dorantes was forced to leave Mexico and the city in which she had lived for 25 years. Estilo, her most recent book of poetry, was published in Mexico last year and can be read online hereHer opinion columns, criticism, and investigative work have been published in many Mexican newspapers, including Diario de Juárez, El Norte, and Día Siete.

Translated by Ben Ehrenreich


I'VE TOLD YOU BEFORE about this sensation of being a kind of soul in sorrow that has died without realizing it. But it's not my own death that I want to talk about here. It's the death of the poet Guillermo Fernández. One less. I didn't plan to start a countdown of people I esteem who disappear, they just keep going like this, as if a giant took a swipe and erased them from the map. Worse than that: Guillermo didn't die of a heart attack. He didn't die as he lay in bed reading, just as he was falling asleep. The death of Guillermo Fernández was intentionally cruel. The reports indicate that they meant to rob him and, incidentally, I suppose, happened to take his life. I've been hearing the "robbery" theory since Felipe Calderón came to power: one "robbery" after another. Not just of poets but of activists, politicians, journalists, kids. And I've heard the "it-must've-been-something" theory that converts the victims of crimes of the State into criminals who deserved to die.  An attorney general in Chihuahua once used a stupid sentence — "Don't think about it as one more death, it's a question of one less criminal" — that Calderón is now trying to sell ... to what society? To the imaginary society of his imaginary country where the rivers of blood are not rivers of blood but an unending candy rainbow? We've had "one-less-criminals" who were two and three years old. Two-less-criminals who headed the Department of the Interior.  Do we really believe in Mexico that the dismembered son of Javier Sicilia was "into something"? That they tried to "rob" (and murder) Norma Andrade, because, surely, she was "involved in something shady"? And that, surely, the poet Susana Chávez must have "shot a nasty look" at her drinking companions, who took advantage of the gesture to beat her to death and chop off one of her arms? That the body of a black actress was dismembered and hidden in the cistern of her home because "she owed somebody," and that, in Puebla, they slit the throat of a transgendered activist "because she went out at night"?

In a few words: for the State, we all add up to a country of savages that on the merest pretext can be murdered-and not just murdered but pounded and crushed, dismembered. And we, supposedly, are the ones who are writing little messages on enormous banners, tapping phones, hunting people down if they don't "get along" with us, threatening to kill them, to disappear them, to rape them, to harass and murder them as soon as they turn their backs.  All so the State can blame us while it keeps snatching away at this country it is selling off piece by piece? A State that shows us the barbarities "that we commit" on all the national TV shows. The moment will come when the State can no longer justify the "insecurity" in which it has submerged an entire country and for which it attempts to make us responsible. It's not enough to hunt down the actual, physical killers. We must bring the State itself to trial, the same State that has terrorized the population, that attempts to murder every critical thought, that opposes the diversity and the freedom of its citizens. A State that reflects the paranoia of Felipe Calderón and of those who pull the strings of his mouth and his hands, those hands that point out which heads will be next to roll. We must try all those who have served as Calderón's enforcers, against the rest of us, and in such cold blood. Or will this be one more genocide uncovered fifty years too late?

Postscript: If one of these days I get "robbed," you already know who it was — and that it happened because I too, surely, was "into something."


Explanatory Notes:

  • "two and three years old": The Network for Children's Rights in Mexico estimates that more than 1,000 children and adolescents have been killed over the last four years.

  • "headed the Department of the Interior": A Lear jet carrying Mexican Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mouriño crashed in Mexico City on November 4, 2008, killing all aboard. Three years later to the day, Francisco Blake Moura, who succeeded Mouriño to the cabinet post, died in a helicopter crash just outside the capital.

  • Juan Francisco Sicilia, son of the poet Javier Sicilia, was found murdered along with six others last March.

  • Norma Andrade is the founder of the group Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa, which has struggled to document the murders of more than 400 women in Ciudad Juárez, her own daughter among them. She was shot five times in December of 2011. Police described the attack as an attempted carjacking. Andrade survived, only to have her face slashed by an assailant in February of this year.

  • Susana Chávez, 36, was found dead in Ciudad Juárez in January of 2011. A black bag covered her head and her left hand had been severed. The state attorney general insisted that her murder had nothing to do with her notoriety as a human rights activist, that she had been "partying" with three 17-year-old boys and, "after hanging out for a while they decided to kill her."

  • "black actress": The actress Julia Marichal, 67, had been active in the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, founded by Javier Sicilia after the murder of his son. Her body was discovered in December of 2011.

  • Transgender rights advocate Agnes Torres Sulca, 28, was found in a ravine outside of Puebla in early March.