Essay The Ecstasy issue

Queen, Slave, Woman

By Fernanda Melchor

Translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes
Illustration by Lorenzo Mattotti

“Downtown Veracruz is full of ghosts,” my father used to say whenever we went past his family’s first home in the city, where they moved from Baja California: a gloomy tenement with a central courtyard on Avenida 5 de Mayo, now completely deserted. Like so many other buildings in the city’s historic center, the shared house where my father took his first steps is today a rubble-filled ruin, a haunt for dipsomaniacs, mangy cats, and specters who languish among the rubbish and overgrown weeds and, every so often, spook the fine people of Veracruz, as the legendary Headless Priest used to do, or the souls of the women raped and murdered by the Dutch pirate Laurens de Graaf’s men in the colonial period. Ghosts in rags, sleeping off their hangovers on the ground in alleyways; ghouls in human form poking their drunken faces through the broken trellises on the balconies; silhouettes that, out of charity or sheer cunning, occupy the wreckages of those vast coral stone houses, old mansions that collapse onto the pavement below, on windy days sometimes fatally, to the total indifference of their lawful owners, criollo big shots who would rather sit back and watch their inheritance fall to pieces than use up time, money, and influence on restoring this heritage site.

The National Lottery building on Independencia, while nowhere near as old as many of the derelict houses steadily crumbling into the downtown streets, forms part of this ghostly panorama: a labyrinth of apartments, offices, and shops distributed across six floors and still occupied by a handful of senior citizens who can’t be evicted because of old tenancy laws—men and women who live by candlelight, without running water or electricity, and who tell stories of strange noises in the building’s hallways: marbles and balls bouncing across the floors of boarded-up rooms, shouts and moans from those who perished in the fire that ravaged the building in the late seventies, or children’s laughter and the patter of small feet going up and down the stairs. 

Miguel, pensioner: “I lived in the National Lottery building for a long time, above Telas de México, the textiles shop on the corner of Calle Rayón and Independencia . . . It used to house the lottery offices, hence the name, but they moved when the fire broke out in Telas de México . . . After that, the building’s owners came out with some crap about how they planned to renovate the apartments, but instead they cut off the electricity and water and ran us all out . . . I resisted because quite honestly, I couldn’t afford to go anywhere else; I needed a rent-controlled apartment and that’s why I clung on, but in the end the constant battle wore me down . . . And the truth is I never much liked living in that building . . . I don’t know if you noticed when you went but it’s got a bad vibe, don’t you think? . . . Sort of like you can’t relax in there, I can’t explain it . . . And at night you hear horrible noises, screaming and groaning . . . We had a neighbor, Doña Esa, she’s dead now but she was very sensitive to these things . . . She was the one who actually saw the two boys, Evangelina’s sons, playing on the stairs, months after the crime was uncovered . . . I think that’s why the owners let the place fall apart; maybe they just didn’t want anyone to remember what had happened in that apartment.”

On April 7, 1989, a story broke concerning apartment 501 of the National Lottery building: in a terrible fit of rage, a twenty-four-year-old woman had murdered her two young sons.

That incident alone would have provided enough material for weeks’ worth of café gossip, before passing into merciful oblivion. But two specific details of the crime ensured that the story would transcend the tabloid crime pages to be written into popular legend: first, less than six years earlier, the offender, Evangelina Tejera Bosada, had been crowned the Queen of Veracruz Carnival, an honor that, even today, is widely considered the highest aspiration for any girl from an upstanding family in the city; and second, having repeatedly smashed her sons’ skulls against the floor, Tejera Bosada went on to carve up their bodies and bury them in a large plant pot, which she then put out on her apartment balcony. 

The first reports of Tejera Bosada’s arrest and the discovery of the bodies of Jaime and Juan Miguel—ages three and two, respectively—appeared on Friday, April 7, 1989, in Veracruz’s biggest newspapers. According to popular legend, however, the story began in the middle of March, when the residents of the National Lottery building supposedly detected a nasty smell. Only nineteen-year-old Juan Miguel Tejera Bosada, visiting his sister’s apartment, dared to link the smell to the unexplained absence of his two little nephews. 

In initial news reports, the young woman, described as pale and doleful, denied responsibility for the children’s deaths. “I didn’t kill my children,” she declared before the court. “I just buried them after they died. My mother cut me off so I had no way of feeding them.” Dressed in a men’s T-shirt and dirty trainers, Tejera Bosada explained to Judge Carlos Rodríguez Moreno that her mother had stopped all financial support upon discovering that her daughter was pregnant and that the baby’s father was married and had another family. The younger child, she confirmed, was fathered by the same man, Mario de la Rosa Villanueva, but since he had refused to legally acknowledge either of the two boys, Evangelina had registered them under her maiden name. She hadn’t killed them, she vehemently maintained. The poor things had starved to death and she had merely tried to dispose of the bodies: first, on a makeshift paper pyre in her living room, and then, when that tactic failed, by cutting off their legs with a kitchen knife to make them fit inside a big Oaxacan pot, given to her by her mother months earlier. 

José, journalist: “The court was packed with officials, reporters, and some sickos who came along just to hear the murderer’s confession . . . She appeared behind bars; she looked like shit, the poor thing, hunched over and all scruffy in a skirt, trainers, and a white T-shirt that was way too big for her. Her blond hair was greasy and her chin was down by her chest . . . She never looked up the whole time she gave evidence, not once could I get a look at her eyes. It was like she was scared of people; she was holding on to the rusty bars and her hands were trembling . . . Her lawyer, Pedro García Reyes—Pistol Pete, we called him, because he was a thug like the Disney character—was perched on one of the female court clerks’ desks, smoking furiously; he spent the whole hearing yelling at the prosecutor, Nohemí Quirasco, interrupting her cross-examination . . . When the time came, Evangelina said she hadn’t killed her children, she claimed they’d starved to death because she couldn’t afford to feed them, and she didn’t mention anything to her family because they weren’t on speaking terms . . . Then the prosecutor asked her why she’d buried the bodies in a pot and, damn, Evangelina just started shaking and said, “I was scared” . . . “Scared of what, or whom?” Quirasco asked, but that supercilious, overbearing prick Pedro objected to the question, on the grounds that it was irrelevant . . . To tell the truth, by this point I thought there was something fishy going on, like they were hiding something . . . That’s why when the judge ordered all those psychiatric tests to be done right away, I predicted they were going to try to pass her off as mad, and look what happened . . .”

From her very first appearance before the judge, the reporters were openly skeptical of Tejera Bosada’s statements, and went public with the medical examiner Gil Trujillo’s conclusions: namely, that Jaime’s and Juan Miguel’s deaths had been caused by a series of closed head injuries and the two boys died several days apart, Juan Miguel first. In his April 7 article, Edgar Urrutia Hernández, a crime reporter for El Dictamen, claimed that Evangelina was a “compulsive liar,” with a reputation for “regularly making up stories and living in fantasy land,” while Héctor Ramón López, a correspondent for the Diario de Xalapa, described the event as “the most abhorrent case in the city’s history,” and repeatedly reminded his readers of Evangelina’s profile as the “ex–carnival party queen who has turned into a schizophrenic woman charged with the horrific murder of her two children.” Although the defendant claimed, in her first appearance before the judge, that she had previously undergone treatment with the psychiatrist Camerino Vázquez, the director of a small mental health clinic in the city, the public, whose moral outrage was supposedly reflected in the tabloid reports, would dismiss this as a lie,
a “legal trick” to help Evangelina “circumvent
criminal proceedings and evade punishment for her spine-chilling crime.” Reporter Urrutia Hernández would also point out, in a story dated April 8, that the prosecution employed “a soft touch” when examining the defendant. The behavior of Judge Carlos Rodríguez Moreno was equally “paternalistic” when he voiced his suspicion that Tejera Bosada suffered from mental disorders, establishing a precedent that the accused and her defense would exploit to “bend the case in her favor,” given the total absence of “proper legal rigor.” 

A group of lawyers from Veracruz, headed up by the ex-mayor Jorge Reyes Peralta, was convinced that the public would not settle for anything less than the harshest of punishments. The team went to the Public Prosecutor’s office the Monday after Tejera Bosada’s detention and requested legal authorization to assist the prosecution and thus lawfully intervene in the trial against Tejera Bosada and prevent the defendant from evading justice by “feigning madness.” In a statement to the press, Reyes Peralta—today the senior partner in one of the most powerful law firms in the city of Veracruz—stated that he was convinced beyond all doubt that Tejera Bosada had acted “with unprecedented cruelty in murdering her two young boys, for the sole purpose of causing nonmaterial damage to the father of those children—children she frequently and ruthlessly abused.”

Neither the rumors that Evangelina Tejera had suffered from long-term mental illnesses—with symptoms including depression and uncontrollable violent outbursts—nor her thorny romantic relationship with Mario de la Rosa, nor her suspected use of illegal drugs mitigated her crime in any way. On the contrary: they were seen as aggravating factors, proof of the cynicism with which the wicked woman tried to evade justice in order to return to her life of ruin and vice. 

But who was Evangelina Tejera Bosada? Who was this woman who, just six years earlier, had been crowned by the people of Veracruz as their glitzy queen, and was now being accused by the very same community of an unspeakable crime? How could this fair-haired beauty, only recently awarded the highest honor to which an unmarried Veracruz girl could aspire, have turned into the impassive waif now splashed all over the tabloid crime pages?

Tomasa, shopkeeper: “Oh yes, she was pretty, she could have almost passed for a gringa with her green eyes and pale skin . . . She’d started young with the boys; there was even one who knocked her about, but then she was a bit nuts herself, you know? . . . She’d been a stoner since she was fifteen, but she really showed her true colors after she was crowned Carnival Queen, what with all the parties and hanging around in trendy clubs with the rich set . . . They say she only ever went with ‘juniors,’ daddy’s boys who would snort a load of coke and then drive around in their fancy cars doing all sorts of crazy things; some of them even killed people, but nothing ever happened to them because the police were there only to cover for them . . . I remember that Picho Malpica, he killed Polo Hoyos’s daughter just because the girl refused to go out with him; and there was Miguel Kayser, who dealt coke at all the parties . . . Some say he dealt to Evangelina and the boys’ father, De la Rosa, and that they’d use the National Lottery building apartment to sell coke and marijuana to other addicts and have orgies . . . and that in one of those orgies she just flipped and killed the two kiddies . . .”

Born in 1965 to a stay-at-home mother—whose name didn’t appear in any of the documents I consulted—and Jaime Tejera Suárez, an estate agent, Tejera Bosada was brought up in a home where, rumor has it, verbal and physical violence were the norm, at least until her parents’ marriage fell apart. Under pressure from both her mother and the worsening economic crisis of the early eighties, a teenage Evangelina was forced to abandon her studies before completing secondary school, taking a job as a secretary for an import-export company in town. Tejera Bosada and her father grew closer after her mother remarried: he encouraged Evangelina to run for Carnival Queen in 1983, and according to the social pages published in February of that same year, he was the sole parent to attend, “with great emotion, the coronation of his beautiful daughter.”

In Veracruz, the selection of the Carnival Queen has more to do with the candidate’s socioeconomic status than with her physical attributes. The queen is chosen from a group of candidates according to her purchasing power—the crown is awarded to the woman with the highest number of votes, which are bought from the festival’s organizing committee with hard cash. In the context of Mexico’s 1982 debt crisis, Tejera Bosada’s ascent to the Carnival throne necessarily suggests that her family (or at least her father) had the support of an entire network of contacts who were prepared to pay for votes as well as her royal trousseau. The social pages from the time entirely overlook such crude details, choosing instead to exalt Evangelina’s grace and charm (“Her Majesty is eighteen years of age, enjoys playing tennis and piano, and is a great fan of contemporary music,” read one profile in El Dictamen), as well as the way this “fair beauty” cheerfully represented “the joy of the Veracruz people,” in “a reign of fantasy and illusion.” The media played down both the violence that invariably took place on the city’s streets during Carnival (the assaults, the sexual harassment and abuse, the public intoxication and often lethal injuries) and the grim sight of a Veracruz completely overrun by mobs of people, whom local writer Ignacio García, in an article from the time, compared to “Melquíades’s raggedy band of gypsies arriving in a muddy Macondo.” Instead, society reporters admired “the beautiful decorations and colorful lights,” “the collective joy” of the Veracruz people, characterized by “their stupendous good humor and ability to see the bright side, their refusal to get worked up about the crisis or the fall in oil prices, or anything that might cast a shadow over their lives.”

In the words of reporter Alfonso Valencia Ríos, a representative of the city’s pro-government media, Carnival let people “forget about the economic crisis eroding the country, forget about the lack of foreign exchange and the brutal inflation pulverizing salaries,” offering instead “the pleasure of a marvelous parade of floats, troupes, and costumes,” which were all examples of “the grace, beauty, inventiveness, wit, and creativity” of the Veracruz people. 

It is here, at the height of this delirious party, this bacchanal of revelers doing its best to camouflage reality with confetti, tinsel, and booze, that the Veracruz myth locates the beginning of Evangelina Tejera Bosada’s fall from grace. Moving from dance to dance, cavorting with the rich and powerful, Evangelina celebrates, drinks, smokes, and, most likely, takes drugs to keep up with the party, the one that only gets going after the official parade is over, when her formal gown, which looks like something out of nineteenth-century Austria-Hungary, is switched out for a fashionable top and jeans. In her escapades at Veracruz’s late-night hot spots, during the endless processions along the city’s coastline and at the social events where she’s obliged to dance with anyone who asks, Evangelina dazzles and enchants all who encounter her: the crowds drunk on beer and the succulent samba girls imported from Brazil and Cuba, as well as the “rich daddy’s boys”—progeny of the city’s customs brokers, hoteliers, restaurateurs, and senior government officials—who had snubbed her before her coronation; the older men who gush about the color of her eyes, as well as the newspaper poets who dedicate verses to her and publish them in the Sunday papers:

Evangelina the Second,
with Artemis’s style:
Venus bitterly envies
The candor of your smile.
Across Heroic Veracruz
its people cheer and scream
Moved by the austere smile
of fair Evangelina their queen. 

Looking at photos of this triumphant Evangelina—draped in costume necklaces and bracelets, silver-and-white frills, her hair in an elegant updo, feathers in her headdress and sequins on her dress—and then at images of the broken, crestfallen woman published six years later—no longer in gossip rags but in the crime pages of the newspapers, alongside the crooks and degenerates—it’s impossible not to search for signs of a disturbed mind developing behind the radiant face: Is that a twinkle of evil cunning, perhaps, in the queen’s eye? Isn’t there a hint of weariness, or even strain, in the stiff smile plastered on her face? Isn’t there something cruel about her indifference as she avoids looking into the photographer’s lens? As she sat on her papier-mâché throne, her lowly subjects calling out to her over the hubbub of heckling, obscenities, and laughter, could Evangelina have already begun, even as early as then, to sense what the future had in store for her? Perhaps Mario de la Rosa was already on her mind during the festivities, while the “incredible voice” of Dulce, “the biggest singer of the moment,” performed live, singing the ballad that would become—along with hits by songwriter Rafel Pérez Botja, sung by José José and Rocío Durcal—the anthem for codependency and emotional worthlessness, the defining zeitgeist of the eighties:

I’ll be your lover or whatever it takes
I’ll be what you ask me to be
I mean it, my love,
Do what you want with me
Queen, slave, or woman
Just let me come back to you.

On April 10, 1989, after her initial detention period was over, Evangelina Tejera Bosada was brought before Judge Rodríguez Moreno, who signed an order of imprisonment against the accused. “Upon discovering her true legal situation, the woman who murdered her children wept for the first time,” wrote a correspondent for the Diario de Xalapa, relishing Tejera Bosada’s suffering and her visible distress and agitation, which his “well-informed sources” put down to drug-withdrawal symptoms. J. P. de León, a journalist for El Dictamen, described the judge’s ruling as “thorough and well founded,” since the imprisonment order would make it hard for the defense attorney to invoke Article 418 from the then Code of Penal Procedure, which—in language yet to be acquainted with political correctness—allowed a criminal trial to be terminated “at the first indication that the accused is either insane, an idiot, an imbecile, or suffers from any other incapacity, infirmity, or mental abnormality.” 

Public opinion was divided: some speculated that Evangelina killed her sons because they cramped her style, others thought that she committed the crime in a jealous rage after discovering that De la Rosa had a new lover, and that she was now trying to pass for a madwoman to avoid a prison sentence. There were those who believed that Tejera Bosada had genuinely suffered a psychotic episode, brought on by her drug abuse, and a select few refused to believe that the young mother could have been capable of committing such a heinous act and suggested that the boys had been murdered by someone seeking revenge. Finally, there were whispers that the old Carnival Queen was part of a “narco-satanic” sect, a rumor that perhaps sprang from the exceedingly gory manner in which the boys, Jaime and Juan Miguel, were killed and mutilated, or perhaps simply because it was something of a hot topic at the time: in May 1983, every newspaper in the country reported on the arrest of the gang known as The Narcosatanists and the death of Adolfo de Jesús Constanzo, alias the Godfather, the leader of this criminal group–cum–satanic sect, which not only trafficked drugs between Mexico and the United States but was also accused of the abduction, rape, and ritualistic murder of at least fifteen people. 

Just a few days after Tejera Bosada was imprisoned in a high-security cell in the Ignacio Allende prison, Judge Rodríguez Moreno ordered the formation of a medical advisory board that would examine the defendant and determine whether she had a psychiatric disorder that exempted her from criminal punishment. Having assessed her, the medical experts concluded that Evangelina Tejera showed signs of “antisocial personality disorder, kleptomania, and an acute psychotic episode,” and while they ruled out frontal lobe epilepsy, they did recommend to the judge that the defendant undergo specialized psychiatric and neurological examinations. Doctors David Reyes and Alberto Miranda were selected to carry out the first of these examinations, which began on May 8 at Veracruz General Hospital and concluded almost two months later with discouraging results for the defense: Evangelina’s behavioral disorders were not the result of any kind of endocrine or brain pathology. 

It’s not clear what happened immediately after these two assessments; the press was no longer covering Evangelina Tejera’s story. One has to access the criminal-trial records to find out what happened next: on March 7, 1990, almost a year after the crime was discovered, Judge Rodríguez ultimately determined the defendant to be mentally incapacitated and arranged for her to be admitted to the Orizaba Psychiatric Hospital “for as long as it takes for her to recover her mental health.” The treatment seemed to work, as three years later, on November 16, 1993, Doctor Gregorio Pérez concluded that Tejera Bosada had fully recovered. 

But the defendant did not get to enjoy her newfound freedom. She was detained at the doors of the hospital by a group of judicial police officers with a new arrest warrant, who drove her back to the Ignacio Allende prison in Veracruz to resume the trial for the voluntary manslaughter of her two children. The public—and, in particular, the team of lawyers led by Reyes Peralta—could not and would not let the crime go. Three years after the case reopened, Judge Samuel Baizabal Maldonado sentenced Evangelina to twenty-eight years of imprisonment and a fine of thirty-five pesos. 

Using several different public defenders, Tejera Bosada did everything in her power to appeal this new ruling and avoid imprisonment, citing the violation of her legal rights—she had been put on trial twice for the same crime. Nonetheless, none of her attempts were successful. As far as Mexico’s Supreme Court was concerned, the resumption of the trial immediately after Tejera Bosada’s discharge from the psychiatric hospital was perfectly legal, since the evidence presented by the prosecution adequately demonstrated that her mental illness didn’t begin until after she committed the crime. According to the Supreme Court judges who reviewed the dispute, the twenty-eight-year prison sentence imposed by Maldonado Baizabal in 1996 was fair and unappealable, since it had been proven beyond all reasonable doubt that when Evangelina Tejera beat her children against the floor and walls of her living room, dismembered their bodies, buried them in a pot, placed said pot on the balcony in plain view of half of Veracruz, and then walked around naked for several days in front of the windows of her National Lottery building apartment, she acted at all times “in full possession of her mental faculties.”

Daniel, pimp: “I don’t think she killed those boys . . . She wasn’t a violent person . . .She was more of a party animal, a druggie—hard into her weed and coke, sure, but she wasn’t crazy . . . At first I did believe she’d killed them, because there were times it seemed like those boys just got in the way of her highs, but then I thought, No, she wouldn’t be capable of that, and definitely not chopping them into pieces . . . I was always over at her place; we’d all hang out there . . . Mario, Kayser, Guillo, Tiburcio, Picho, Cara de León; the boys would roll up and there’d be all sorts . . . Man, that was some world-class blow, like from back in the day, not the nasty shit they sell now. It came in sort of flakes, crystals almost . . . Cost about a grand a gram but it was like a turbocharger . . . There were always people in that apartment getting fucked up, drinking, dancing . . . And the kids, well, in their room, of course . . . Yeah, I saw them once or twice; they were little blond things, like her . . . personally I think Evangelina lost it afterward, after what she went through . . . I think it was the narcos who killed those kids, in revenge, because she and that dickhead De la Rosa snorted all the coke and spent all the money . . . I think that’s why she never confessed to doing it but at the same time never ratted on whoever did. Because she’d rather live with the stigma than have the narcos come after her and kill her. And that’s why she hooked up with that guy from Los Zetas cartel on the inside, to protect herself from her enemies . . .”

Evangelina’s case didn’t appear in the press again until 2007, a decade after her definitive sentence, when her name became linked to a character both feared and revered by the crime tabloid writers of the early aughts: Oscar Sentíes Alfonsín, better known as Güero Valli. Originally from Cosamaloapan and detained several times for robbery, possession of illegal arms, and crimes against public health, Sentíes Alfonsín was considered a dangerous prisoner, and suspected of being one of the principal drug smugglers into Veracruz’s jails. He was also suspected, according to articles written by Lourdes López, César Augusto Vázquez Chagoya, and Miguel Ángel López Velasco, of being Tejera Bosada’s new romantic partner. Apparently, they had met in jail in Pacho Viejo, Perote, where they were both transferred: Evangelina because of the constant clashes she provoked among the other female prisoners inside the Ignacio Allende, and Sentíes Alfonsín for organizing several rebellions at the Villa Aldama federal prison. For his repeated misbehavior, the authorities punished Güero Valli with the “carousel”—continuous transfer between penitentiaries—a strategy that supposedly prevented the purchase of “privileges.” When they transferred Güero Valli from Perote to Amatlán, Evangelina Tejera went with him, and in May 2008 they were both part of the “chain” of prisoners sent to a brand-new prison in Coatzacoalcos. According to the journalist Miguel Ángel López Velasco (who wrote under the pseudonym Milo Vela until he was assassinated in June 2011, allegedly by members of organized crime) on the day of the prison’s opening, Sentíes Alfonsín spoke to then-director of Social Rehabilitation for the state, Zeferino Tejeda Uscanga, to “push” the case for the early release of “his woman,” who had served exactly half of her sentence. By then it was an open secret that the prisons in Veracruz were controlled, from the inside, by Los Zetas, who had recently broken away from the Gulf Cartel: they provided the inmates with drugs and grant privileges, like the ones Evangelina Tejera required in order to go on living in the Coatzacoalcos prison with Sentíes Alfonsín, despite the fact that she was now eligible for early release. And she enjoyed that privilege until October 2008, when Sentíes Alfonsín was stabbed to death by a fellow inmate in a punishment cell, where he’d been put for allegedly trying to organize another revolt.

As Michel Foucault points out in the book I, Pierre Rivière, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister, and My Brother: A Case of Parricide in the 19th Century, every crime must serve some purpose to society because a completely gratuitous crime, one without any motive at all, is unimaginable. The community must instead come up with unique and singular causes for the crime, precluding any reflection on the structural conditions surrounding it and passing over connections between that crime and other cases from the same period. In Tejera Bosada’s case, these would include the economic crisis, violence against women, the breakdown of the family, and Mexico’s failed social security and child protection systems. 

I’ve always been troubled by the contiguity that exists between the society pages and sensationalist “bleeding leads,” and not only because these two sections are usually published close together in Veracruz’s newspapers (often on facing pages, as if mirroring each other), but because both genres tend to present the subject matters of their “literature” as exceptional, one-off, unrepeatable events. First, the rise of a young woman to the status of Carnival Queen, a living symbol of the joy, vitality, and fruitfulness of Veracruz’s people; then, her subsequent disgrace as the murderer of her own children, a mythical villain, a fairy-tale witch whose name is invoked by mothers all over Veracruz telling boys and girls to eat their vegetables, or else “Evangelina will come and punish you.” Opposing yet complementary archetypes, masks that dehumanize flesh and blood women and become blank screens on which to project the desires, fears, and anxieties of a society that professes to be an enclave of tropical sensualism but deep down is profoundly conservative, classist, and misogynist.

Three decades after the double homicide that shook the people of Veracruz, the whereabouts of fair Evangelina are still unknown. Some accounts say she returned to the city and now lives as a recluse in a miserable downtown tenement, obese, ailing, and out of her mind. Other rumors have it that a family member employed her: in an optician’s office, some say, or a medical laboratory, or a veterinary clinic. Some claim to have seen her in the luxury hotel resorts on the Riviera Maya, svelte, dripping in jewels, on the arm of the big bosses from Los Zetas, to whom it’s said she must have turned for protection after Güero Valli’s assassination. 

And while the legend of her crime lives on in whispers, to this day it is still possible to walk to the top of Independencia, stand on the corner of Calle Melchor Ocampo, look up at the National Lottery building, and search its west facade for the balcony of apartment 501. Perhaps the constant flow of pedestrians along that street will prevent an inquisitive person from standing there for very long, but with a bit of luck, they’ll still glimpse the yellow light that on some nights, for a matter of hours, goes on in that apartment. And perhaps a terrible thought will flash through their mind: that just like her children, the old Carnival Queen, the convicted murderer Evangelina Tejera Bosada, has herself become a ghost.


Fernanda Melchor is widely recognized as one of the most exciting new voices in Mexican literature. Her novel Hurricane Season has been translated into more than thirty languages and won the Anna Seghers Award. Her latest novel is Paradais.
Sophie Hughes has translated writers such as Enrique Vila-Matas, Alia Trabucco Zerán, and José Revueltas. She won the Queen Sofía Cultural Institute’s 2021 Translation Prize for her translation of Fernanda Melchor’s Hurricane Season.