Dear Mara Fernanda Castilla,
I have just read about your story and once again I feel the shame of being a man. I never met you nor will we ever meet in this lifetime. Like too many young women, your life was tragically and brutally cut short. As a father of a beautiful young girl, I cannot possibly imagine what your parents are living through at this moment. I just hope they find some solace of comfort in the solidarity the brave women of your country are showing right now by marching and demanding justice in your name.
I want to be honest with you. I feel our global society (if such a thing exists) owes you this. I only actually became aware of your disappearance and death as a result of the social media feed of a Mexican friend. I then wanted to learn more and found a few media reports, though in the United Kingdom (where I live) these were relatively obscured. I would say you shouldn’t take this personally. But in truth, it’s as personal as it gets. Violence against women is often hidden away.
As I read the reports, I was horrified to be confronted by the statistics. It seems in your country alone, five women are killed every single day and over 60% of women and girls over the age of 15 suffer some form of physical violence and abuse. I have no words for this epidemic. Except to say please remember your life always was more than a statistical measure.
I understand you were a student with an interest in political science. I am somebody who teaches Politics in the University sector. At 19 you probably had the same enthusiasm and passion for life as the international students who now starting a new term. The man who felt they had the right to take away your right to exist stole yet another life of promise and ambition. It didn’t really matter what you would have become. I am sure you would have made your own personal mark.
I once lived in Puebla for a time. I remember that before I visited I heard about the Nations problems, its violence, narco-trafficking and the need to be “vigilant”. Yet as a white male I must admit I found the place that took away your life, the place you called “home”, completely safe. Then again the realities of safety are always dependent upon the bodies we occupy.
I also have a confession to make. As an author, I often write about the worst of the human condition. I can therefore also become too often fixated on exceptional violence. And even while I wrote a piece about the missing 43 students in your country recently, I have never written specifically about the problem of femicide. This has been a profound failure on my part.
I understand that Latin America has this thing called “machismo” culture. But this is too easy an explanation for what happened to you. I have recently been reading Aeschylus Oresteia. I don’t know if you ever read this book? I wont bore you with the details, though it tells of the story of King Agamemnon, who in order to appease the gods needed to sacrifice his innocent daughter Iphigenia. It’s a metaphor really. The history of the human condition is one of men destroying the lives innocent women.
I am now running out of words to say, not that I couldn’t write books about this, but I know in this moment my words with always fall short and never do justice to your memory.
So I would like to part by offering my heart-felt apology on behalf of every man who thinks it’s acceptable to denigrate, humiliate, and violate the body of any single woman. I would like to apologise for every man who has compensated for their own inadequacies by taking away the lives of innocent young girls like yours. I would like to apologise for every man who thinks women are some sexual and disposable object for their own deluded pleasures. And I would like to apologise for my own shameful compromises with global systems of power, which continue to recreate gendered violence on a daily basis across the world.
May you find some rest in peace,