An author wrote about the murder of his sister. This led to a breakthrough.

Through the account, she received a tip from a credible source in August that he was likely 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 enlisted the help of law enforcement contacts in the United States to corroborate the story, and now believes the man in the photo was indeed Liliana’s ex-boyfriend. She is awaiting final confirmation from the Mexican authorities.

This result disappointed Rivera Garza at first, pushing 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 then she began to think about the purpose of her book and what she hoped to ultimately accomplish by documenting Liliana’s story.

“There is a broader concept of justice that also involves the preservation of memory and truth,” Rivera Garza said. “I realized little by little that the book was actually trying to do that job.”

Rivera Garza came to see grief 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 unsolved, according to Impunidad Cero, a think tank. And most violence against women goes unreported at all.

For Rivera Garza, finding a way to write about her sister’s death, even against the backdrop 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 construct according to Rivera Garza that implicitly blamed the victim while exonerating the accused. This lack of “dignified and respectful language” prevented Rivera Garza from writing her sister’s story earlier, she said.

Lola R. McClure