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81 Chapter Three The Stained Plaza María Luisa Mendoza’s Con Él, conmigo, con nosotros tres and the Origins of the Mestizo Nation María Luisa Mendoza’s first novel, Con Él, conmigo, con nosotros tres (1971), is one of the earliest literary interpretations of the Tlatelolco massacre. A fictionalized, multi-perspective , semi-autobiographical account subtitled “cronovela,” Con Él combines narrative and chronicle by telling the story of its protagonist, Delfina Zebadúa Latino, alongside journalistic and poetic descriptions of October 2 and its immediate aftermath.1 Delfina, a young woman who lives in an apartment overlooking the Plaza of the Three Cultures during the Student Movement and on the night of the massacre, responds to Tlatelolco by trying desperately to write down her thoughts about Mexico and the violence that has characterized its history. Frustrated by her inability to capture contemporary events, let alone her feelings of impotence about them, Delfina reflects on the historical trajectory of her paternal ancestors, the Zebadúa family, whose decline and fall the novel traces in tandem with three bloody historical events: President Benito Juárez’s defense of his power in 1871, the “Decena Trágica” of 1913 when General Victoriano Huerta ordered the assassination of Ignacio Madero, and Tlatelolco. The earliest period the novel relates, which extends from the 1870s to the final years of the nineteenth century, centers around the story of Delfina’s paternal grandmother, Altagracia Albarrán de Zebadúa, who, like Delfina, also speaks in the first person. Altagracia is unhappily married and sick of bearing her hated husband’s children. When giving birth to her twelfth child, she refuses to open her legs in an act of resistance that grants her the terrible refuge of death from the miserable life she has suffered under her husband’s rule. As a consequence, Altagracia does not appear in a portrait taken in 1901 of Delfina’s paternal 82 Chapter Three grandfather (Altagracia’s husband), his mother, and his twelve children. This particular photograph triggers Delfina’s memory and attains tremendous symbolic significance when, fantastically , it is restaged almost seventy years later in Delfina’s Tlatelolco apartment. The series of violent events that leads to Delfina’s present continues, following Altagracia’s death, when Altagracia’s tenth child, Manuel Zebadúa Albarrán, who is also Delfina’s father, finds himself driving a makeshift ambulance and collecting the dead and wounded left scattered on Mexico City’s streets during the Decena Trágica. Manuel’s story, recounted by Delfina in the first person, eventually leads to Delfina ’s occasionally second-person reflections on her childhood and early adult life, which emphasize her troubled relationship with her mother, Angustias Latino Ceballos, her early education at a Catholic school in Guanajuato, the summers she spent with her aunts in their crumbling, colonial-era Mexico City home, and her inability to bear children. The novel’s roundabout approach to the present concludes, chronologically speaking, with the third-person description of Delfina’s cousin, Juan Ruvalcaba Zebadúa, a student who dies in the massacre. The narrative ends when Delfina’s dead relatives, including Juan, enter her apartment , pose for one last family portrait and prefigure Delfina’s death as well. In contrast to La región and José Trigo, Con Él is profoundly affected by a single historical event, the Tlatelolco massacre. Though the novel connects Tlatelolco to previous moments of violence in Mexico’s history, the 1968 massacre frames the narrative and forces Delfina to ask the text’s most pressing and relevant question: how does one narrate such a trauma? The novel itself stands as a response. Its ironic use of language and pronounced intertextuality help to produce a portrayal of people and events that refuses to insert them into a dominant vision of national history. The Mexican state attempted to construct Tlatelolco as a tragic but necessary guarantee of public order and collective progress and, perversely, an opportunity for Mexico to renew itself. In specific terms, Con Él contests the state’s construction of events. As a result, in general terms, it reveals and refuses to engage in the kind of originary thinking that pretended to legitimize Tlatelolco. This chapter proposes that Mendoza’s novel combines reflections on violence, lan- 83 The Stained Plaza guage, writing, gender roles, and sexuality in order to reject a patriarchal social order not only capable of carrying out a massacre like Tlatelolco, but also of integrating it into the national narrative. The...


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