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An Author Wrote About Her Sister’s Murder. It Led to a Breakthrough.


Through the account, she got a tip from a credible source in August that he had likely been living in Southern California under an assumed name. She was able to see his photo, but only on an online memorial website: He died in 2020.

Rivera Garza asked for help from law enforcement contacts in the U.S. to corroborate the story, and now believes that the man in the photo was indeed Liliana’s ex-boyfriend. She is waiting for final confirmation from Mexican authorities.

That outcome initially disappointed Rivera Garza, thrusting her back into a familiar cycle of grief and guilt: if only she had started her search sooner, if only her sister hadn’t moved to Mexico City, if only. But she then began to contemplate the purpose of her book, and what she ultimately hoped to achieve by documenting Liliana’s story.

“There is a larger concept of justice that involves the preservation of memory and the truth, as well,” Rivera Garza said. “I realized little by little that the book in fact was trying to do that work.”

Rivera Garza came to see mourning as a communal process. The book was “written from a wound that I share with so many other families in Mexico, Latin America, and around the world,” she said.

Justice of any kind has been hard to come by for women like Liliana. In Mexico, more than 1,000 murders last year were officially classified as femicides — the killing of women and girls because of their gender. At least half of reported femicides in the country go unresolved, according to Impunidad Cero, a think tank. And most violence against women isn’t reported at all.

For Rivera Garza, finding a way to write about her sister’s death, even in the context of such pervasive violence, was a challenge. At the time, cases like Liliana’s were often described in the press and historical records as “crimes of passion,” a construction Rivera Garza said implicitly blamed the victim while exonerating the accused. This lack of a “dignified and respectful language” prevented Rivera Garza from writing her sister’s story sooner, she said.


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