A few words of introduction:
Four years ago, on July 31, 2015, five lives were taken in a Mexico City apartment. They were Nadia Vera Pérez, Yesenia Quiroz Alfaro, Mile Virginia Martín, Olivia Alejandra Negrete Avilés, and Rubén Espinosa Becerril. Their torture and execution-style killings received international attention, in particular because Nadia Vera, a social justice organizer and human rights defender, and Rubén Espinosa, a photojournalist, had fled to Mexico City from Veracruz following attacks and death threats due to their work. Before her murder, Nadia stated that should anything happen to her, it would be Javier Duarte who was responsible. Duarte was then governor of Veracruz and is now serving a nine-year sentence for corruption after he fled the country and was extradited from Guatemala. During his rule, widespread human rights abuses were the norm, including the assassination of journalists and political opponents.
While a few people have been detained for the murders, the state’s investigation has been egregiously irregular, incompetent, and disrespectful to the victims and their families. Over the course of four years, it has offered a variety of narratives – from a robbery gone bad to a cartel settling of accounts – yet, unsurprisingly, has assiduously avoided investigating the most likely scenario, that it was an extrajudicial assassination ordered and organized by state actors.
On the first anniversary of the murders, I happened to translate a hauntingly powerful letter/poem by Nadia Vera’s mother, Mirtha Luz Pérez Robledo, that was published on the website El Enemigo Común. Later, it was included in the anthology Rebellious Mourning: The Collective Work of Grief. In preparing it for the anthology, I began corresponding with Mirtha and we remain in contact. An award-winning poet, Mirtha has used her poignant power with words to grieve her unbearable loss and to relentlessly clamor for justice and memory for her murdered daughter. Now marking four years of grief without justice, below are two translations of pieces she wrote for the occasion: a brief statement of thanks, followed by a letter to Rubén and Nadia. They are also available in their original Spanish versions here and here. The letter makes allusions to individuals and events in Mexico that may be unfamiliar to readers. Rather than interrupt the flow of the piece with descriptors or footnotes, I have left it as is, as the general sentiment needs no explication.
Amidst the headlines that daily deliver dozens or hundreds of dead, one can lose sight of the tremendous, unyielding pain left by a single one of those losses. A pain, in an instance such as this, amplified all the more by its calculated cruelty, both in the deed and the aftermath. Mirtha once told me, “I write because it’s a way of releasing a little bit of this pain that doesn’t fit in my body. This rage, this impotence. That which remains after they take what you loved most.” I am grateful to Mirtha for sharing her words, rage, and grief with us. While it may not heal or alleviate her pain, it allows us to stand alongside her, to raise our fists with tear-filled eyes in solidarity and compassion, to join her in the struggle to honor, remember, and continue on the path with Nadia in our hearts.
In my name and on behalf of my family, I send my deepest thanks to all those who have supported us with your kindness and solidarity from every corner of the world, through your messages, your political protests, your artistic protests.
Because without you, without your solidarity, without your art, without your protest, without your demand for justice, this tragedy that has touched us would have passed unnoticed, like so many others in this country.
At four years without justice, we are not the same, and we need to continue supporting ourselves with your kindness. For those of you who have embraced us, we embrace you now, after four years of our Nadia Dominique Vera Pérez’s absence, because thanks to you, her voice and protest continue to be heard.
To those who murder, to those who order the murders, to those who violate due process, we say: There are dead who will never be silenced.
Mirtha Luz Pérez Robledo
For Rubén Espinosa,
for Nadia Vera.
Four years ago, they insidiously took your life. Are our words any use in the face of their bullets? Because it wasn’t just the criminal that pulled the trigger who murdered you, but along with him the one who manufactured the weapon, the one who brought it into the country, the one who looked away so as to not see the illegal cargo the weapon was a part of, the one who sold it, the one who bought it.
The governor who received special benefits for allowing criminal gangs to act with impunity. The negligent president who allowed criminals to take over the country. (And that’s why we say, IT WAS THE STATE, BECAUSE IT IS THE OBLIGATION OF THE STATE TO PROVIDE SECURITY AND TO SAFEGUARD THE LIVES OF ALL CITIZENS.)
The judge who released the criminal murdered you, arguing that he didn’t know he was going to reoffend; the prosecutor’s office that didn’t provide a complete and correct report in a timely manner and as a result the criminal was released; the lawyer who defended the criminal, who, knowing that he had already committed a crime, filed an injunction and provided his defense; the expert who out of ignorance, negligence, corruption, or simply because he didn’t want to do his job, didn’t know how to find sufficient evidence even if it was in plain sight.
The one who defends the rights of the imprisoned murderers murdered you and forgets that those murderers forgot that they had no right to take your life.
They all murdered you, in this country that is no longer ours, because in this country, to contaminate a river is not a serious crime. They all murdered you, because in this country that is no longer ours, to steal millions of pesos from public funds is not a serious crime.
They all murdered you, because in this country that is no longer ours, they award a senate seat to the governor who facilitated the escape of his fellow criminal governor. They all murdered you, because in this country that is no longer ours, they award a senate seat to a politician who didn’t know how to govern the capital and left it with insecurity at its highest level.
In this country that is no longer ours, because white-collar criminals call themselves political prisoners and kill women and girls and activists and journalists with impunity. In this country that is no longer ours, because investigations into crimes and frauds are not done in the interest of seeking justice. In this country that is no longer ours, because there are media outlets that revictimize the victims for the sake of sales and a larger audience share. In this country that is no longer ours, because gasoline is more important than health and the market is the reason for existence. In this country where money is worth more than life. In this country that is no longer ours, because they ask us to forget the wrongs and forgive the murderers. In this country that is no longer ours, because they persecute migrants and let criminals go free. In this country that is no longer ours, because we’ve lost count of the clandestine graves. In this country that is no longer ours, because they remain – with another name, with another face, but with the same intentions – the corrupt, the violent, those who snatch away justice, life, the freedom to think.
They all murdered you in this country that is no longer ours. It never was.
Mirtha Luz Pérez Robledo