High school number 16 in San Martín de las Flores de Abajo, in the Guadalajara metropolitan area, is next to a cemetery. From the patio, you can see the tombs that appear above the wall. The students have also recreated a pantheon inside the school with wooden crosses, red flowers and plastic bottles filled with dirt on the grass. In one corner of that set, a girl with long dark hair awaits, like the protagonist of Eat dirt, the first novel by Argentine writer Dolores Reyes, who this Friday visited the students during the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL).
The protagonist of the book is a young seer who swallows dirt to find women whose relatives desperately search. Sometimes he finds them alive; sometimes they are corpses. This restitution alleviates the grief of those close to the victims. “The duel is central in Eat dirt because when they violate a woman, a child, a person and steal her body, they don’t let their loved ones say goodbye. And there remains an uncertainty that is torture ”, Reyes (Buenos Aires, 43 years old) pointed out. This unbearable pain draws a line from Argentina to Mexico: “Those who are looking for the disappeared sons and daughters, much more than the States, are women’s organizations that always had to intervene without even thinking about it.”
Reyes began writing the novel when she was working as a teacher in a school on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Nearby, 150 meters away, there was also a cemetery. There were the graves of Melina Romero and Araceli Ramos, two adolescent victims of femicides to whom the novel is dedicated. “When writing one, she puts into play all her obsessions, her gaze, everything that moved her and that has not been resolved,” said the author. And she seeks that from there “that transformative reading experience comes out to intervene in society,” Reyes said to the 200 young people between 15 and 18 years old who were listening to her this morning.
The boys had received her waving light blue and white balloons, the colors of the Argentine flag, and had followed her as in a carnival to the school’s radio studio, where a student interviewed her while a student did the simultaneous translation into English. . From there, they accompanied her to the stage. The young people had placed cardboard with summaries of the text, newspaper clippings, photos of the author or quotes from her work on the walls. But I keep my eyes closed. I fight the disgust of continuing to swallow dirt. It is not enough for me, I am not going to leave without seeing, without knowing ”, it was read on an orange paper.
Reyes has “Enough dead girls” tattooed on his right leg and on his arm, the cover of the novel he published in 2019 and whose second part he hopes to have ready next year. “I think of the eyes of the protagonists of my stories and they are your eyes,” said the writer from the stage and warned that she was making an effort to contain the emotion. The students who watched her returned to classes when the COVID-19 infections dropped, but the institution’s teachers estimate that a quarter of those who were before the pandemic will not return. Many, the teachers explain, had to start working when their parents lost their jobs.
For more than an hour, the students have asked from their seats. Why the protagonist as earth, why not water, why not flowers? Dolores, how did you start reading? Is it easy to lead the life of a writer? Reyes, who has seven children, ages 10 to 26, has said no, that it is not easy at all. “But the novel would have been impossible without the time shared with them,” said the author. Have you been discriminated against for being a woman? “Of course”. What teaching did writing this book teach you? “This of not putting off any longer, of going after dreams.”
“When I was in high school I really liked to read, but the writers were far away. They were bronze beings, they weren’t bodies and they didn’t talk to us ”, he explained. “That made it take me years to think that I too could tell a story.” The writer stressed that “today there are many formats.” “Never think that [lo que les gustaría hacer] it was intended for others. Never allow anyone to tell you that you cannot do it because of your origin, because of your place in the world, because of your sex. You can do everything, ”he told the teens. When finished, it has sounded Song without fear, the feminist anthem composed by Vivir Quintanar: “Today they take away our calm from women / They sowed fear, they grew wings”. And the students have surrounded it until they narrow the circle like a rockstar: teacher, writer and activist.
Subscribe here to newsletter from EL PAÍS México and receive all the informative keys of the current situation of this country