Student Voices: Rivera Garza lecture highlights plight of mentally ill in Mexico

Guest post by Gitaine Chaisson, COP ’16

On Thursday, February 5, Cristina Rivera Garza spoke in the Presidents Room on the Stockton campus to an audience of Pacific faculty, staff, students and community members. Dr. Rivera Garza is the author of six novels (including Nadie me verá llorar (No One Will See Me Cry), La muerte me da, and La cresta de Ilión) three collections of short stories, five collections of poetry, and three non-fiction books. For her talk, she focused primarily on her novel No One Will See Me Cry. This novel is about a photographer in the Castañeda Insane Asylum, who becomes obsessed in confirming the identity of a patient.

Garza2Dr. Rivera Garza considers this novel “documentary writing” since she obtained most of the information from the asylum’s archives. She read hundreds of files of real patients, which she included in the novel. She became attached with the patients and she wanted to share their stories with the rest of the world.

During the talk she read some sections from her book, and accompanied them with pictures taken of the asylum. The pictures showed the state of neglect of the asylum, as well as the desolation, loneliness, and poverty of the patients. The asylum was built in the outskirts of Mexico City, and looked like a prison. Patients were called “inmates” and the photos showed them behind bars. The patients did not consist only of “mentally unstable” people; the asylum took in anyone who didn’t have a place to live which led to constantly over-crowded situations. The asylum had a very bad reputation because reporters and photographers shared the photos they took with the rest of the population. The images were very dramatic, but showed the diversity of patients at the asylum.

After her talk, she answered questions and talked a little more about the details and her experience with the asylum’s archives. Her visit to Pacific was made possible by Latin American Studies, Modern Languages and Literature, Latino Community Outreach, Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies, School of International Studies, College of the Pacific, the Humanities Center, M.E.Ch.A, and LULAC.

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