The mourning that never ends
'Niebla Ardiente,' the debut novel by Mexican Writer Laura Baeza, addresses the issues of forced disappearances and femicides in Mexico
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A few years after she was born, Laura Baeza moved with her family to a town in Veracruz, where she learned to read, imagine, and write “little stories,” although she did not yet know what a story was or that literature existed.
“The idea of becoming a writer came to me at the age of 12, after reading Michael Ende (The Neverending Story), and that’s how I continued until today,” explained Baeza, who published her first novel, Niebla ardiente (2021), a little less than a year ago.
Winner of the Julio Torri National Short Story Prize with Ensayo de orquesta (FETA, 2017) and the Gerardo Cornejo National Narrative Prize with Época de cerezos, Baeza is considered one of Mexico’s literary rising stars. Her next book of short stories, Una grieta en la noche, will be released in October through Spanish publisher Páginas de Espuma.
Niebla ardiente begins with the story of Esther, a young Mexican girl whose childhood and memories are marked by the mental illness of her sister Irene, who, despite the care she receives, ends up escaping from the center where she was placed. She is victim of forced disappearance, a current crime in Mexico, and found dead in a ditch at the age of 21.
To reorganize her life and escape the pain and guilt, Esther goes to study to Barcelona. But she realizes that forgetting a loved one is not easy. How can it be that while watching news in Mexico she sees her sister dead in the middle of a riot in the state of Hidalgo?
A healing process
“Unfortunately, the mourning for the disappearance of a loved one never ends,” Baeza explained in an interview for AL DÍA. “A mourning for death hurts, it is a process that involves resignation and healing, but a mourning for a disappeared person does not end, it is walking in limbo one day after another.”
To write the book, she spent four years researching forced disappearances. According to data from the National Search Commission (CNB), the number of missing people in Mexico is close to 91,000.
Unfortunately, the mourning forthe disappearance of a loved one never ends
The author, like the lead, spent some time studying in Barcelona.
“I felt limited and unsatisfied in my context; I wanted to continue studying, and I found a postgraduate degree in Communication, Journalism and Humanities, but I quit because I ran out of money and there was no way to continue,” Baeza said.
The frustration she felt made her learn to see the world and literature in a different way, “in the experiential and interesting way I never had. I think that’s why the idea for my novel was born at that moment.”
The importance of family
Despite having certain parallels with her personal and family life, Niebla ardiente is not autobiographical, but helped her to reflect on the importance of family and how the loss of a loved one impacts one's life. In the words of Baeza: “Family is a subject that interests me because it is a structure which you can survive and, in the best scenario, enjoy. I have enjoyed mine. I am also interested in exploring the complex relationships between siblings, because if those between parents and children are difficult, between siblings there is a greater degree of complexity.”
Family is a structure which you can survive and, in the best scenario, enjoy.
In Mexico, family is even more vital.
“The family unit is a little more present and marked in Latin contexts by historical issues. We come from a Judeo-Christian tradition, so our conditions are different and, at least in Mexico, the fi gure of family seems to be carved in rock,” she said.
A feminine voice
Unlike her first published stories, starring mostly men, Baeza has opted for women as leads of her first novel.
“Now I feel more in touch with who I am, and I’ve lost my fear of talking about myself and others. When I started writing I felt I had to show toughness, that’s why almost all my characters were male, and I was very wrong about that,” she admitted.
Although the context of Niebla ardiente is linked to Mexico, the reader who dives into its pages, whatever their nationality, “will find a map of the memories and nostalgia of its characters, a search through streets, cities and continents, and the reconstruction of the memory of those who are no longer here or who are somewhere far away,” said Baeza with conviction.