Home » Issues & Poems » Issue Sixteen » Open Letter

Open Letter

Caroline Bergvall

In April this year I took part in a powerful group reading curated by Steven Fowler for English PEN, in support of writers and journalists at risk from political violence and oppression. They risk their lives for what they write, for what they say, for how they protect others with their writings. The least I can do is to to be present when the relay reaches me, and to find a way to hold the torch. The journalist I wrote about is the incredibly courageous Mexican writer Sanjuana Martínez Montemayor. Sanjuana Martinez was arrested on 24th December 2014, possibly linked to an article in La Jornada denouncing the alleged rape of a member of the Tamaulipas state police force by an officer. On the day the article was published, Martínez’ house was ransacked. She has stated that her arrest and harassment were in reprisal for her writing, which is fiercely critical of the Mexican establishment. In Prueba de Fe (Test of Faith, 2007), and Manto Púrpura (Purple Cloak, 2006) she writes about alleged sexual abuse in the Catholic Church leading to a prolonged campaign of death threats and harassment. ‘The truth is that the situation is now so bad… any initiative to make visible our problems in Mexico is welcome. Fortunately PEN International and English PEN have always supported me. My situation in Mexico is extremely tense and truly everyday life becomes very difficult. The support and love of PEN is super important. They are my guardian angel, my shield.’

Open Letter

For Sanjuana Martinez Montemayor of Mexico

It’s because

just because

that it is so


It’s because

just because

that it matters less



just because

it is so


It’s because

just because

she matters less

that it matters less

with a woman

with a girl


just because

she is a girl a woman or any female declension thereof



it’s because

just because she matters less

that she is less encouraged less safe less respected

for doing her job


that she is less

safe less protected

in her bodies in her genders in her lives


that she is more quickly more easily more

silenced more forgotten more neglected


because she

matters less

maiming her raping her murdering her dismembering her

is investigated less

is resolved less


is taken less


is less relevant

is implicitly more

acceptable more


as less crucial less


to solve to resolve


and because

she is female a woman and any female declension thereof

as a public figure a journalist a writer an architect a riot girl a writer

it matters less that she matters less

is always more

at risk


of ridicule of being neglected and forgotten

or worse at risk of violence

for what she says what she does

for doing a job for daring the truth for speaking up for dreaming

while being a woman and any female declension thereof


In political cultures such as Mexico

where extrajudicial violence is regular

murders condoned

and disappearances frequent

a public voice a journalist a fighter a justice warrior a writer

who is a woman and any female declension thereof

is crucially more at risk

when doing her job

while being a woman


It’s because

just because

that it is so


it’s because

just because

a woman

and any female declension thereof

does matter less


that femicide femicide femicide the killing of a woman any female declension


matters less

and that it is so.


Sanjuana Martinez is a female journalist and a writer in Mexico. Her work and

that of her colleagues has been to denounce corruption, abuses of power in

Mexico and notably the extremely precarious situation that women and girls

are increasingly facing in a country, which has recently been named as one of

the 5 worst countries in the world for its levels of sexual trafficking and its

many unaccounted for acts of femicide.


Sanjuana Martinez has been raising the dead from oblivion

to keep their spirit among the living

frequently increasingly

at the risk of her own


for what matters less

matters more

when each we live our life we do our job


On the 16 March 2016

she wrote and published this open letter

a tribute to her colleague Annabel Flores Salazar.

Let me read you a few sections from these heart wrenching lines:


My name is Anabel Flores Salazar and I am 32 years old. I work at Cuacnopalan-

Oaxaca in the state of Veracruz. Rather, I worked. Estoy muerta. I am dead. Anoche

me asesinaron. This night they murdered me.


I am picturing the scene. I see my inert body, lifeless. I am dragged into the ditch by the road at the level of the 1+580 kilometer road marker of the Cuacnopalan-Oaxcan road. My trousers are down to my knees. I don’t have any knickers and I have a plastic bag over my head. My hands are tied to my shoulders with a rope that reaches down to my feet. I don’t understand why they’ve dragged me in this way as though I were some trash, as though my life was worth nothing. Even if I know that it is like that in Mexico, that the life of a woman is worth less than nothing.


Last night they tortured me to death. I am destroyed. I don’t want to give you too

many details because what they did to me is inhuman. No-one deserves to die as I did.



Estoy muerta.


I am dead. Dead like my 14 female colleagues murdered under Javier Duarte’s

government. Dead like my colleague Regina Martine, like Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz. I

am the 15th. I refuse to be a number, a statistic. Since 2012, 14 female journalists have been murdered. Most of us were tortured, some beheaded, others ismembered. These are feminicides. They killed us because we are women and because we do our job, because we are journalists, because we write, they kill us to kill our voices.


Then I see myself on the zinc table of a surgical theatre. I see my close-ones. They are

identifying me. I see my friends. And I see myself in the coffin. They look at me. I see

my friends, my colleagues. I listen to what they say, they are defending me, some

organisations demand justice for me. But I know that my assassination my murder

will be one more unresolved murder. Justice for the 120 journalists murdered in Mexico is just a dream. The rule is impunity.


I never thought I’d end like this. I say my goodbyes. I don’t want to leave. I see my

children among these people. Ian is playing and Essau is asleep. One day my mother

will explain to them what happened to me. I hope they will be proud of their mother,

that they won’t believe the government’s lies. That they will know I loved my work as

a journalist that I loved writing that I was working for truth and that the most

wonderful part of my life, was them, my treasures.


Please forgive me. It wasn’t how I planned it. I promise you. They ripped me from my

life, my sons. They ripped my life from your lives, from our family, but I will always be

in your hearts.


I love you my sons. Hasta siempre!


They kill us because we are women and because we do our job, because we are

journalists, because we write, they kill us to silence our voices.


Signed : Sanjuana Martinez from Mexico





Translation from Spanish by Michèle Pralong

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