For the first group of reading sessions, we provided the secondary school students in our study with the text: Justicia Divina (Divine Justice) by Francisco Haghenbecki, a successful Mexican author with a long trajectory in the world of graphic narrative. This book was published by the Department of Literature of the Iberoamericana University, a unusual case, as there are those who believe that academic insititutions only edit works of theory or criticism.
What is Justicia Divina? As indicated in the Prologue by Alberto Chimal, it is a ‘hybrid story’, between a written and graphic narrative in which the author makes an ironic and parodic construct of supernatural stories, underneath which lie legends and horror stories. However, this text convokes not only ghosts and phantoms, it also flirts with our reality and its problems, everyone knows about the violence that is afflicting Mexico and how it particularly targets young people. The protagonist is a witness of the fears and terrors of our days and of our nights, as the text rightly puts it: ‘this city already has its own spectres: assaults, police, kidnappings, authorities […] today the price of the dollar is this is more frightening than the Coco.’ (27). The Coco is one of the legendary apparitions that appear in the book, along with the Llorona, the Mad Monk, the Goatsucker, the Wolf Man and the Female Vampire.ii Victor Serrano Bellosilo, our principal narrator, represents himself: ‘I am a conservative, Catholic, virgin and I like Luis Miguel,iii I know, I am fucked for life. But I can’t aspire to anything more. Not only was I born with a dark gift but with the stigma of being middle class.’ (12)
The ironic spirit floods the textul paths of the text, as well as the streets, buildings and dives represented in a game of mirrors that reformulates reality. The creator weaves his story with ambiguity, ruptured forms and genres. For example, the author deconstructs the prototipical image of the Devil, in a way that entertains and alerts the reader to the absurd transcendence of the relevations that the demon makes to Victor, who later comments:
He didn’t tell me anything new. I was expecting that he would resolve my life, that he would explain to me the reason of my gift. The reason why life laughs at us. But like everyting bad, the only reason is just because. But I understood why they call him the Devil… he left me with the bill for a capuchino for a hundred pesos.iv And those prices really are sinful. (95)
When Justicia Divina was presented this year, at the Feria de Mineriav in the D.F. in the Salon de la Academia, it was full of young people who knew the author and wanted to find out about his new book, in fact, almost all the copies were sold. Haghenbeck dedicated the text to everyone who bought it, drawing a picture of Victor, the detective of the paranomal (his alter ego) who speaks wth both the dead and the living.
This effect on Haghenbeck’s readers led us to select this text for the student in this project and although we expected they would like it, we were still suprised by their reaction. We had asked them to read the first sequence only, but when we went to speak to them we found that three of them had alredy finished the book and were talking about it with great enthusiasm, infecting their peers. It had caused them to laugh, they had understood the allusions to the bad guys and the sinister dark worlds which they represent, in fact, one of the boys commented that this book was about both ‘the fears by day and the fears by night’. From their enjoyment of the text, comprehension was derived in a natural and simple manner and, above all, it was appropriated into their lives and their own worlds.
i Haghenbeck, F. 2013. Justicia Divina. Mexico, D.F.: Universidad Iberoamericana.
ii All of these are ghosts or monsters from Mexican legends: the ‘Coco’ is a Bogeyman used to threaten naughtly children; the Llorona is a woman who wanders the streets crying for her dead children; the Goatsucker does just that, it is a monster that sucks the life out of goats!
iii Luis Miguel is one of the most successful pop singers in Latin America.
iv About 10USD
v An international book fair in Mexico City.