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A human and ecological tragedy by Cristina Rivera Garza


Body and territory. Investigating the relationship between these two concepts is increasingly important for the Mexican writer Cristina Rivera Garza (1964), since both have inspired most of her work and, now, surprisingly coexist in her new Cotton autobiography (Random House Literature).

The narrator and poet born in Matamoros (Tamaulipas) comments in an interview with Excelsior from Houston, Texas, where he currently lives, it took him six years and 20 books to write this autobiography, the first volume of a trilogy.

I wanted to travel the border between Mexico and the United States to be there and be part of it, putting the body in the spaces where scenes and experiences have taken place. I am very dogleg and I love traveling on land. I went from San Diego (California) to Savannah (Georgia) looking for cotton fields, taking photographs, collecting soil samples, collecting old artifacts, pieces of iron, to reconstruct that world that I had only heard of behind the door, “he says. .

The novelist and short story writer explains that Cotton autobiography he follows, “as closely as possible”, the migrant experiences of his paternal grandparents.

They left San Luis Potosí on foot, until they reached the area of ​​the coal mines in the north of Coahuila; and later they passed through Estación Camarón (Nuevo León) to finally settle in the agricultural communities around the cotton fields of Tamaulipas.

It is also the story of the migration of one of my maternal grandparents, who crossed the border as a child and was finally expelled, in the 30s of the 20th century, deported, and they coincided in the Camarón Station and in the cotton fields, ”he details.

The essayist also adds that many of the things she talks about in the book seem to have been told by families or grandparents. “But something that causes migration is many erasures, everything is disappearing, sometimes by force and obligation and sometimes by strategic decisions of the migrants themselves. Generations pass and each time we know less and less; that’s what happened in my family ”, he says.

Clarifies that this seems to be a journey through the past, but starts from the present. “I believe that the past is not behind, stored somewhere, but that it comes with you, sometimes comes from the future and finds us. I would like to see this title responding to that type of energy, because the migratory processes of which I speak, the large caravans to reach the border, the long walks to cross a country, are one of the greatest tragedies of our present ” , Add.

The University of Houston professor, who has lived in the United States since 1989, indicates that Cotton autobiography It starts at Camarón Station. “It is the central axis. José Revueltas (1914-1976) arrived here at the age of 19 and wrote about this place, he went to participate in a workers’ strike in 1934.

And in my writer’s imagination, I say that my grandparents may have encountered Revueltas. I have no evidence that this was the case. The truth is that the times and times of upheaval and turbulence coincided. Imagining that this meeting was possible is part of the novel, whose character production is a kind of dating with ghosts ”, she comments.


The sociologist graduated from UNAM and has a PhD in Latin American History and Human Letters, both from the University of Houston, admits that northern Tamaulipas has been one of the regions hardest hit by the so-called war on drug trafficking.

In the book, a connection emerges between the work of the cotton monoculture, its decline, how it was replaced by sorghum, then with the maquila, and how the conditions were created for violence to drag everything down. I narrate the tragedy that is human, but also ecological, that touches the body of people and also the soil, plants and animals ”, he points out.

The author of No one will see me cry and Ache proposes in his new novel a combination of genres, fiction and non-fiction, that intertwining of personal experience and seeing a story unfold.

Finally, the count is serious, it has to do with the present, with a war that does not end and for which we still do not have a precise name, “he says.

In this inquiry into his personal origin, Rivera Garza discovered that “the ancient land of cotton is now the land of blood and torture, of graves, where the disappeared are sown.”

He adds that carrying out this project “has been the opportunity to restart dialogues with aging parents, with relatives that I had not seen for a long time. And I was worried about the many things that we inherited without knowing, those that we are loading, encrypted. The family is also made of those empty places that ghosts occupy ”.

Conclude that Cotton autobiography, which represents “the beginning of a new journey in my relationship with writing,” is the first in a series of three books in which she is investigating her family’s history in relation to the crops that made it possible. “Follow another work with the very little glamorous, but always indispensable, dad. It will not be an autobiography ”, he advances.