Actions

Work Header

Ernesto de la Cruz vs. The Court of Public Opinion

Chapter Text

Devout Catholics visit the Vatican, Muslims Mecca, Jews the Wailing Wall, and fans of Ernesto de la Cruz have their own site of pilgrimage: the tiny Oaxaca town of Santa Cecilia. This was where de la Cruz first learnt his craft, playing for pesos in the town square, and though later in his career he sometimes tried to draw a veil over his humble beginnings, this is also where he chose to be laid to rest. This is my second visit to Santa Cecilia; my first was two years ago, on Dia de los Muertos, when the ground around de la Cruz's monumental tomb was almost paved with candles and marigolds. Ernesto de la Cruz is Santa Cecilia's greatest son, and her people all but worship at his altar.

Except, of course, for the one I'm here to see today, who believes de la Cruz murdered his great-grandfather.

“Great-great-grandfather,” Miguel Rivera corrects me. He counts back briskly on his fingers. “Me, my papa Enrique, Abuelita Elena-” The lady in question, supervising the meeting from the head of the table, smiles widely at me. “-and then Mama Coco, and then Papa Héctor.” Miguel is confident, articulate and smiling. Sitting at the kitchen table in his family's home, with a bundle of paper scraps, three printed sheets and one framed photograph spread out in front of him, he looks like a general overseeing an army. His feet do not quite touch the floor.

Miguel didn’t mention--before he appeared on the other side of the gate of his family’s compound, and I found out for myself--that he is only thirteen. Archival research is a strange hobby for a boy of that age, and one you'd hardly think Miguel Rivera had the time for. At the weekends, and two nights a week after school, he learns to make shoes in his family's workshop (Rivera Family Shoemakers, founded 1921 and going from strength to strength.) When he has free time, he spends it strumming his guitar in the street outside his house, but free time is hard to come by with a new baby sister of barely six weeks. Little Socorro Rivera is howling upstairs as I arrive. “Sorry, sorry!” Miguel calls, laughing, slamming doors and shutters to keep out the noise. “That's my little sister. I think she's going to be a singer. Don't you?” That last comment is aimed, with a cheeky smile, at his Abuelita Elena.

"Don't push your luck, Miguel!" Abuelita Elena scowls. “I caught Abel looking at an accordion last week. An accordion!” For a moment I expect her stern expression to crack--surely that was some kind of joke--but Miguel dutifully covers his smile with a hand as he hops up into his chair.

It's an odd moment, but neither of them are in a hurry to explain. Instead Miguel grabs the framed photograph, leans across the table and offers it to me. It’s a family portrait. A beautiful woman with a grave expression sits with a goggle-eyed baby on her lap. Her husband stands at her shoulder, dressed in white, holding a guitar.

“Here. This is Mama Imelda, holding my Mama Coco, and this-” He taps the glass over the husband. “-is Héctor. Papa Héctor, I mean.”

Miguel Rivera has officially got my attention.

I don't want to be dishonest. When I was asked to write this article, I mostly agreed for the chance to revisit Santa Cecilia on expenses. Any Ernesto fan knows there’s no shortage of wild stories about his youth, and it’s not even the first time he’s been accused of murder on what turned out to be flimsy or fabricated evidence. Miguel Rivera is going to have to work hard to rattle me, but this photograph, at least, is worth the trip.

One of the minor mysteries in the history of Ernesto de la Cruz's early years is the Sepulveda Sketch, a postcard-sized drawing of Ernesto on his first tour, which shows him sitting with another musician and two matched glasses of tequila. The interesting thing about it is that they seemed to have swapped guitars for the occasion; the unknown man is holding Ernesto's signature gold-toothed guitar, while the one Ernesto cradles is decorated with gold swirls. Miguel’s Papa Héctor—lean, long-nosed, smiling shyly—is without a doubt the second man in the Sepulveda Sketch. What is more interesting, though, is that in the framed photograph Miguel has just given me, he is still holding the gold-toothed guitar.

His head has also been torn off and taped back into place, which is not an indignity ever visited on the Sepulveda.

I tap my finger against the glass, over the tear. “What happened here?”

“Mama Imelda got angry and ripped his head off,” Miguel says.

The story starts just over a hundred years ago, in 1917. That was the year Miguel's great-great-grandmother Mama Imelda, a wealthy, beautiful, educated young lady, married a penniless orphaned musician named Héctor Rivera.

“And he had big ears,” Abuelita Elena interjects.

“I think she must have loved him,” Miguel says. “It's the only explanation.”

A year later, their daughter was born; Miguel's Mama Coco, the first Socorro Rivera. When she was three years old, in the spring of 1921, Héctor left.

Miguel and Abuelita Elena are both silent for a moment.

"He wanted to play his music for the world," Miguel explains, with a bright and almost-pleading smile.

Abuelita Elena isn't so kind. "He left his wife and child and went chasing after his dreams like an idiot!"

With Héctor gone, Imelda Rivera and her three-year-old daughter were left to fend for themselves. It was lucky for the Rivera family that Mama Imelda was not a woman to wallow in despair. Her parents had cut her off when she married her penniless orphaned big-eared musician, but she set herself to learning a trade and she learned fast. A year after Héctor left Santa Cecilia, she was running Rivera Family Shoemakers from the front room of her house with the help of her twin brothers.

In that time, though, Héctor had disappeared. The last letter arrived in early August. After that, the Rivera family never heard from him again. And at some point, within a year of Héctor’s departure in the spring, Imelda  ripped his face out of the family portrait and banned all music from her home. Not an instrument or a scrap of sheet music passed her door. Nobody was permitted to so much as whistle. Any passing strummer who set up within earshot of her home would be chased away by a well-aimed boot or her dog, Conejito.

“A mariachi band walked past her house once,” Abuelita Elena says admiringly. “Once.

“There were warning signs at each end of the street. With a picture of a boot on,” Miguel says.

Imelda Rivera was clearly not a woman to do anything by halves. "She was scared someone else would leave the family to play music," Miguel explains.

Abuelita Elena nods seriously. “It was better not to risk it.”

I'm reminded sharply of the lectures about drug use I sat through in high school. If you ever touch a marijuana you will instantly die. Humming leads step by inexorable step to abandoning your family and being obliterated from the ofrenda. It sounds utterly mad to me, and I say so.

"People outside the family don't understand," Abuelita Elena sniffs.

The Rivera family's taboo on music, though, has survived for four generations and almost a hundred years, and as Miguel chatters on, it becomes very clear that it hasn't gone away. It has merely been relaxed. Miguel is in fact a musician on probation; the time spent polishing shoes in the workshop with his family is a trade for the time in the street—never in Santa Cecilia’s famous plaza, that den of mariachis--with his guitar.

It was Mama Coco herself who, at ninety-nine years of age, finally negotiated an easing-up of the embargo, though she wasn't quite aware she was doing it. Mama Coco was afflicted badly with dementia in the last years of her life. Her daughter objects when I say that she 'suffered' from the disease; they made sure she was comfortable and happy. It is an undeniable fact, however, that she used to ask miserably when her Papa was coming home. That was what prompted Miguel to break the taboo; he grabbed the guitar he'd learned to play secretly, hidden in the attic, and played a song for her. The song was 'Remember Me'.

I fold my arms and settle back in my chair. "Ernesto's greatest hit."

"Debatably," Miguel says, and smiles. I think, naively, that maybe he prefers Un Poco Loco.

"So why did you choose a song by Ernesto de la Cruz?" I ask. "Considering that you're meeting me to accuse him of murder."

"Well, I didn't know about that when I did it," Miguel says, eyes wide. “I used to be, like, Ernesto’s biggest fan. I learned to play by watching his videos. Frame by frame.” He sticks his tongue out of the side of his mouth, assumes an expression of fierce concentration and plucks the strings on an imaginary guitar. “Like that!”

“He had a shrine,” Abuelita Elena says, with an undercurrent of simmering wrath.

Miguel pulls a face. “Don’t tell everyone, Abuelita! It’s embarrassing.”

I’m getting a little antsy, waiting for Miguel to bring out the documentation. “You've told me an interesting story, Miguel, and I think it’s a shame you’ve been disillusioned about Ernesto. I came to hear your theory about a murder, though.”

“I’m getting to it!” Miguel protests, and glares at me. “Do you read the last page of all your books first?”

“You’ve got all those papers there and you’re not letting me look at them! It’s very suspicious,” I say.

Miguel grins, and finally digs into the hoard. The first offering is a photocopy of the church record for Mama Coco’s baptism. Godfather: Ernesto de la Cruz. My eyebrows go up involuntarily, and I grab my pen and make a note of the date of the baptism.

“So, this certainly proves they were friends for a long time.” And the date of Héctor’s departure, in the spring of 1921, does coincide with the best estimates for the start of Ernesto’s first tour. With the Sepulveda Sketch, it seems safe to conclude that they travelled together. “And the murder?”

“Like ninety percent of people get murdered by someone they know. That’s just statistics,” Miguel says.

“No, ninety percent of murdered people are murdered by somebody they know,” I say. “That or the crime rate in Santa Cecilia is much worse than I’d have expected.” I tap the end of my pen against the notebook, and hurriedly stop myself in case that’s too musical for Abuelita Elena. “Honestly, Miguel, I’d be delighted if I found a thing like that in my family. Standing as godfather to someone’s child is a long way from killing them, isn’t it?”

“I know! That’s why I was so shocked when I found out,” Miguel agrees brightly. “But you’re jumping ahead again! See, after I played for Mama Coco, she showed me some things she’d kept hidden.” Mama Coco’s reaction to the music must have been favourable, I’ve gathered, or the ban wouldn’t have been relaxed. “Papa Héctor’s head, to start with, but as well as that-” He lifts the bundle of torn paper from the table and carefully hands it to me, rather than simply pushing it over. The edges are frayed. “-she gave me these.”

He watches anxiously, hands clenched, as I separate the delicate pages.

Torn scraps of paper, a few postcards. They are all letters, all in the same hand, and every sheet covered with writing, doodles, lyrics and even sheet music in wobbly staves. Some are addressed something like ‘To my darling, the light of my life, and the other smaller light of my life’, other simply ‘Querida Coco’. They’re dated between April and July 1921.

As soon as I realise what I’ve been handed, I push back my chair, go to the sink, and carefully wash my hands. Abuelita Elena and Miguel watch me, frowning.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m cleaning my hands. I don’t want to damage them.”

Miguel bites his lip and looks at Abuelita Elena. “Should we have been doing that?”

Abuelita Elena folds her arms. “My hands are clean.”

“It’s not dirt. The natural oils on your hands aren’t good for the paper,” I explain. “Though… oh my God, you’re shoemakers. You handle leather and use wax and polishes and things? And then touch the documents?”

Miguel looks guilty. Abuelita Elena sets her jaw. “We wash when we come out of the workshop. We’re not savages.” Her gaze ticks away from me slightly. “Somebody might have spilt tabasco on July 6th.”

“It didn’t cover any of the words,” Miguel says defensively.

Oh my God.

I dry my hands carefully and return to the table. Miguel and Abuelita Elena are now looking at the letters like they’re a live grenade and might explode into dust at any moment.

Héctor Rivera’s letters offer news from the road—Ernesto and I were in this town or another, we played here and here and met these people and slept in such a place. Which is to say, a personal, almost day-by-day record of Ernesto’s first tour. There are lyrics, and heavily-annotated guitar chords. I’m dizzyingly aware that several people would kill for what has just been dropped unexpectedly into my hands.

“Would you mind if I came back tomorrow, to make a transcription?”

“Tomorrow?” Miguel looks at Abuelita Elena.

“I’ve handled documents this old before. I promise I’ll treat them as if they were my own.”

“And the more people read them, the better,” Miguel says, with a sharp smile.

Abuelita Elena says grudgingly that it’s all right so long as someone sits with me while I work, presumably so that I can’t stuff the letters into my bag and run away. To be fair, it’d be worth it.

“You ought to keep these in a safe,” I inform them both. “A well-hidden one.” As I look through the letters, though, a suspicion dawns on me that the dates and places and even the lyrics are not their sole significance.

The Songbook—the small, worn notebook found among Ernesto’s possessions after his untimely death, containing the lyrics and sheet music for the songs written between August 1919 and July 1921—is the most treasured artefact of de la Cruziana; twenty-five thousand visitors a month file reverently past it at the Ernesto de la Cruz Museum. It is an unfortunate fact, however, that the script in the Songbook does not match the extant examples of Ernesto’s handwriting. There are many potential explanations for this: handwriting does change with age, and it’s even possible that Ernesto purposefully developed the elegant, flamboyant hand he used in later life. I’ve always personally subscribed to the latter theory, and I’m no graphanalyst. But to my untrained eye, the handwriting of Héctor Rivera’s letters very closely resembles the handwriting in the Songbook.

Miguel and Abuelita Elena aren’t the only ones, now, looking at the bundle of letters like it might explode. I sit back and take a few deep breaths.

“According to the letters, Papa Héctor was the one who really wrote Remember Me,” Miguel informs me, cheerfully, as if he knows what I’m thinking but isn’t sure I’m freaking out enough. “For Mama Coco. It’s all in the letters. They sang it together at the same time every night no matter how far apart they were.”

“That’s in the letters?”

Abuelita Elena nods. “We’ve heard them all.”

“We sat around the table and read them to Mama Coco,” Miguel says. “Look, this is Papa Héctor’s last letter, July 26th-” With the ease of practice, he snags it out of the nearly-identical pile. “He’s really soppy.” His nose wrinkles. “I loooove you and I die every morning I don’t wake up beside you—yuck!—and Coco’s face is so pretty, kiss her pretty face for me.” He rolls his eyes. I’m not sure how Miguel survived that first reading. Miguel shakes his head and presses on. “But he doesn’t sound like he wants to run away and leave them, does he?”

“No,” I admit, but with a wariness learned from several ex-boyfriends.

“I thought so too!” Miguel says. “And I went on the Internet-” He mimes typing. “-and it turns out someone’s taken pictures of aaaallll the civil records from, like, all time, and put them on a website! So you can put names in and they find you all the records that match the name. I think it was the Mormons that did it. Which was weird of them, but it was really helpful, because I found this!” He doles out the next printout and watches eagerly for my reaction.

It’s a death certificate. Héctor Rivera, originally of Santa Cecilia, died on July 29th in San Antonio de Padua in Tamaulipas, from food poisoning. He was twenty-one years old and had no family.

“That’s very unfortunate. And Imelda never found out?”

Abuelita Elena shakes her head. Miguel stares at me, like he’s waiting for me to catch on. I examine the document again.

“When it says food poisoning, it doesn’t literally mean someone poisoned his food. He could have just eaten a bad chorizo.”

Miguel kicks the leg of his chair impatiently and keeps staring.

“Ah. No family.”

Miguel nods energetically.

“He hadn’t separated from Ernesto on the 26th, and he was exactly where they had planned to be three days later. And Ernesto knew Héctor had a wife and child. So, you think it’s suspicious that the death certificate lists him as having no family.”

More nodding. “Yes!”

I purse my lips and glance at Abuelita Elena. “It could be an error. These things happen. Or they could simply mean no family in that town. A wife and child in Oaxaca aren’t relevant to their records.”

Miguel screws up his face and grudgingly admits “Maybe.”

“It’s bad luck that news of his death didn’t get back to Imelda, if he was still with Ernesto when he passed away, but the postal service wasn’t all that reliable in the 1920s. And since Ernesto never visited Santa Cecilia again, he may not even have realised she didn’t get the news.” I lean on my elbows. “What made you go looking for a death certificate, though, Miguel?”

“I guess I’m a pessimist,” Miguel says, deploying his dimple. “Or…” He frowns. “An optimist?” He shrugs and looks at Abuelita Elena.

“You’re an optimist,” she tells him.

Miguel flings his hands out. “There you go! I’m an incurable optimist.” He hurries on. “Papa Héctor and Ernesto were pretty broke, all the time, so I figured Héctor must have been buried in a, you know, a pauper’s grave. But I thought it would make Mama Coco happy if we could have brought him home. Back to Santa Cecilia. The most important thing is that Mama Coco’s happy, right, Abuelita?”

I’m concerned that Miguel is in imminent danger of a shoe to the head.

“So I wrote to the priest at the local church and asked if he could tell me where Papa Héctor was buried. He didn’t know-” Miguel pulls a face. “-but he said the priest in 1921, who was called, um, Antonio Calderon y Mejia, kept a diary. Which had been sent to the archdiocesan archives, innnn….” He draws the word out. “…. Monterrey.” He drops his jaw and raises his eyebrows. “And that isn’t on the Internet. Someone has to go look at the real thing.”

The Rivera family home doesn’t have an Internet connection; Miguel has been using the computer at his local library. I’m worried that his first foray online may have already ruined him for everyday life.

“He was not going to Monterrey,” Abuelita Elena says. “Eight hundred miles! Two days just to get there, on the road, or you take a plane and they make you give them your firstborn—he said we could put him in a box marked frágil and send him by post and he’d be very quiet-” She turns on Miguel. “As if you’ve ever been quiet in your life!”

“I was learning the guitar in the attic for three years and you didn’t know! That’s pretty quiet,” Miguel says.

A brief struggle follows between Miguel, Abuelita Elena and her left sandal.

“Excuse me,” I say, “but how did you get the information from Monterrey, then?”

Abuelita Elena looks smug. “I did it! I called the man in charge of the archives and asked him if he would like a nice new pair of shoes.”

“… really?”

“Of course really!” She waves a hand. “We make very good shoes!”

“All right. I never heard of anyone bribing an archivist with shoes before, that’s all.”

“It probably took less than an hour to make the copies and mail them. A pair of Rivera shoes is the best pay he’ll ever get for an hour’s work,” Abuelita Elena says.

“So he did find something?”

Miguel hands over the last photocopied sheet.

The heading, in block capitals, is easy to decipher. The rest of it, in dense spiky handwriting, takes some work.

31ST JULY. BURIED HECTOR RIVERA OF SANTA CECILIA OAXACA, GRAVE 127.

Buried young vagabond musician today - age of 21 – succumbed to contaminated food and died in arms of friend and fellow musician travelling with him. Not alone by the grace of God. Friend name of Ernesto de la Cruz age of 25. Asked who sold the food but he could not tell me. Some family in Oaxaca. De la Cruz will deliver news and effects to them. A guitar, a wedding ring—poor substitutes for a living man. It is better to die and be with Christ than to live but this is difficult for those left behind to accept. Have marked grave with cross initialled HR in case body is sent for. De la Cruz sang touching song had not heard before at graveside-‘remember me though I have to say goodbye’. In his place I would have wept but I understand this is a point of honour in the musical life. ‘The show must go on’. May God have mercy on his soul.

I sit back and think. It’s obviously a very sad story. I try to think of it as if I were a detective, which is a little annoying; I might just have been handed a priceless resource on Ernesto de la Cruz’s early life, and I have to approach it like I’m putting the poor man on trial.

“So the points of concern are that Ernesto couldn’t say where Héctor got the bad food, and he didn’t cry at the funeral.” I interlace my fingers. “Is that what makes you suspect it was murder? Because that’s not cast-iron evidence.”

“No,” Miguel says, “it’s because—wait, really?” He squints at me. “You don’t think it’s weird he didn’t cry?”

“A lot of people don’t cry at funerals, and Ernesto was an experienced performer already by that point. So… no, not too surprising.”

“Not too surprising.” Miguel brandishes an accusing finger at me. “He’s alone, eight hundred miles from home, standing at the graveside of a dear friend who died in his arms two days before at twenty-one years old.” Abuelita Elena leans slowly into my field of vision. “He’s singing the lullaby his friend wrote for his three-year-old daughter, who’ll never see her papa alive again. His wife won’t even have got his last letter yet-”

“She’s crying,” Abuelita Elena says.

Miguel leans across the table and inspects me. “It’s true! See?” He points at me triumphantly. “You’re tearing up just thinking about it.”

“I’m a weeper, all right?” I wipe the ball of my palm across my eyes. “It doesn’t hold up, though, Miguel. Ernesto had nerves of steel. He was the consummate professional; everyone he worked with said so. He’s never known to have cried in public in his life.”

“Oh, I know! That’s not why I think he’s a murderer,” Miguel says easily. “I just needed this to prove he was at the funeral. He knew Papa Héctor was dead. Which is important, because of what’s in the last letter.”

“The last-” I shuffled through the papers until I found July 26 again.

“No, that’s Papa Héctor’s last letter,” Miguel says, and squares his shoulders. His expression turns grave. “There’s another one.”

Tension settles over the room. Miguel is a born performer, clearly, and he’s been stringing me along since I walked in. Still, now, I feel like we’ve finally reached the climax of the story.

Miguel looks at Abuelita Elena. She silently produces a folded letter, on thin white paper, and holds it out to me.

“There’s writing on both sides,” Miguel says, and clasps his hands together so tight his knuckles go pale.

The upper side is in handwriting so neat and legible it almost looks printed.


Querido Ernesto,
Héctor hasn’t written in more than two months. What’s happened? Is he sick? Is he hurt?
If he’s ignoring me to teach me a lesson, tell him to go to hell! How am I supposed to write to him when I only know where he is the week after he’s left?
If you receive this, please please write back at once. I’m losing my
Con todo mi afecto
Imelda

That I’m losing my is scored out so deeply the pen has almost torn through the paper, but Imelda’s textbook hand is still easy to read.

“A neighbour had a letter from a relative in Mexico City, to say that a singer from Santa Cecilia was filling up a club there,” Abuelita Elena explains. “She realised it was Ernesto and wrote to him.”

I take a deep breath and let it out, steadying my nerves, and turn the sheet over. Ernesto’s florid handwriting is instantly recognisable.

October 17th 1921 -

Querida Imelda, I cannot express how shocked, shocked I was to receive your letter. I simply cannot believe Héctor has not written to you. But—to my everlasting regret, as I would so dearly love to tell you where Héctor is—I cannot. I simply do not know.
We argued badly around the end of August, shortly after we came back to Mexico City. He thought that I wasn’t giving him enough credit for his songs and stealing the glory that—he said—ought to be his. I swear to you, Imelda, that was never my intention! I tried to reason with him, but he was like a madman. He seized his guitar and suitcase and stormed out of the inn, and he nevered returned. I am forced to believe—though it almost kills me to think it—that he considers our friendship over. All our years of camaraderie, simply gone, blown away like leaves in the wind. I would never have dreamt the lust for adoration could change a man so.
I cannot think what would drive him to neglect you and Socorro like this, unless… it is only that on a few occasions he drank far more than he should have, and complained to me about your treatment of him, Imelda. I am sorry to say it, but you deserve to know everything. He felt you weren’t supporting him, that you didn’t have faith in his music. I can only think that’s why he hasn’t written—though I would never have thought he would turn away from you like that! In the first weeks we travelled together he never so much as flirted with another woman. He loves you and little Socorro, I am certain of it. Perhaps he is sulking now, but he would never want to leave you forever.
I am still playing his music, though I know it will only infuriate him if he knows. If he wants me to stop he will have to come back and tell me so.
Please tell me if you hear from him. He was my dearest friend—he still is, there shall forever be a place in my heart marked Héctor Rivera—and I am afraid for him.
With all my heart
Ernesto de la Cruz
P.S. I have enclosed a signed photograph for dear Socorro.

I read it through again, just to be sure, and then set it down. I look at Miguel. I point at the letter. “This is a complete lie.”

It’s not eloquent. Under the circumstances, producing a grammatical sentence seems like achievement enough.

“Yeah,” Miguel says, nodding slowly.

“How did you get hold of this? Was it included with your Mama Coco’s letters?”

Miguel nods again.

“So… you read this letter before you went looking for Héctor’s death certificate. Miguel.” I spread my hands out wide. “Why did you look?”

“I thought, okay, so he argued with Ernesto, but even Ernesto said it was weird he wasn’t writing to Mama Imelda,” Miguel says. “And Ernesto knew him so well! Ernesto was his dearest friend.”

“But you looked first in Tamaulipas, at the end of July?”

“No. First I looked in Mexico City at the end of August,” Miguel says. “It’s really easy to get murdered in Mexico City! Abuelita says so.”

Abuelita Elena nods.

“And then when I didn’t find anything I looked everywhere. And when I found the death record in the wrong place, for the wrong date, it seemed really suspicious, you know?”

Abuelita Elena chimes in. “When we read the letter from Ernesto the first time, we all thought Mama Coco’s papa was a-” She makes a disgusted noise. “But Miguel’s guitar playing made Mama Coco happy and we thought, so long as he is only doing it in the house where we can supervise-” She pulls a face. “-maybe it isn’t so bad. Maybe he will get it out of his system. And we put the letters and the picture away and ignored them. But Miguel went to the library and did his-” The typing gesture again. “-and comes back and says no, Mama Coco’s father died in July. So how did he argue with Ernesto in August?”

Miguel cracks a smile. “Rosa—my cousin—said maybe Ernesto was carrying the corpse around and talking to it like in a horror film.” He puts on a deep voice. “Héctor, I am trying to keep our friendship alive and all you do is decompose at me!”

“Keeping a corpse in Mexico City? In August? Rosa watches too much television,” Abuelita Elena says. “So then we decided it was worth writing to Monterrey and finding out about the burial. And when we found out Ernesto lied-” She jabs her finger at me with every sentence. “I went to Mama’s room. I took her letters and her picture. I stuck her useless papa’s head back on myself. And just in time, too!”

Mama Coco passed away—peacefully, in her sleep—only six days later.

“We told her we were going to bring his body back to Santa Cecilia,” Miguel says. “It would have been nice if we could have done it sooner. You know, before. But I think she was happy to know we would try, and-” He shrugs, with a flourish. “-they’re together again now, hopefully!”

“How do you feel about Héctor now?” I ask Abuelita Elena.

She makes a disdainful noise. “He was a stupid man. He should never have left in the first place. But...” She wrinkled her upper lip. “He would have come home if he had the chance. Mama Imelda might never have forgiven him, of course.”

“If she would never have forgiven him she wouldn’t have kept his head,” Miguel says.

“So do you agree with Miguel’s theory? That Ernesto murdered Héctor to take credit for his songs?”

Abuelita Elena’s voice rises. “That man was a lying-” Her eyes slide sideways to Miguel. “-evil man, who slandered Miguel’s no-good dirty rotten guitar-playing great-great-grandfather. If he poisoned him, smothered him with a pillow, h-ch-ch-ch-” She waves a hand dismissively. “Why does it matter? Ernesto as good as murdered Héctor when he lied about him to his family!” She folds her arms and sits back in her chair.

“What do you think?” Miguel asks me nervously.

I blink several times and inspect the letter again.

I know the chemicals used to artificially age ink and paper, but I don’t know enough about shoemaking to know if Miguel would have easy access to them. The fact that it is on one sheet of paper may be suspicious. Old blank paper can be carefully extracted from old books, but rarely in large quantities. The edges of the sheet are all equally worn, though, with nothing to suggest one has been sewn or cut or protected in the spine of a book. The handwriting is smooth and fluent, with none of the stops and starts that mark a hesitant forgery.

I rub my arms with my palms. I’ve been a fan of Ernesto all my life. It was handed down through the generations. Some of my earliest memories are sitting in my grandmother’s lap as her vinyl records scratched on the turntable. I feel like I know him as if he were a family friend; melodramatic but charming, careless but always, essentially, good-natured. These documents feel like an attack on my own childhood.

“Senora Acosta?”

Miguel has tried to downplay it, but even looking for a death certificate, after reading Ernesto’s letter, speaks of sheer desperation. “You have a lot riding on your great-great-grandfather’s reputation, don’t you, Miguel?”

He doesn’t hesitate. “Yeah. I want to play music.” He shrugs. “And the ban wouldn’t have been relaxed if it hadn’t turned out to be-” He glances at Abuelita Elena, picks his words carefully and holds two fingers about half an inch apart. “-a little misguided in the first place? But if I’d found out a really bad thing about him, that would have worked too! Like if he went to prison.” He spreads his hands out wide and puts on a coaxing voice. “‘Okay, so Papa Héctor abandoned the family, but Papa Héctor was a bad man. I would never set fire to a nun like that! I love nuns! So everything is fine, right?’”

I certainly don’t think that would work. I lay the last letter aside. “Miguel, I hope you’ll take this as a compliment: I think you’re committed enough to attempt forgery.”

“What,” says Abuelita Elena.

Miguel scrunches his face up. “Well, thanks, I guess?”

“My grandson is no liar!” says Abuelita Elena, followed by a brief pause while everyone remembers that ‘secretly learning guitar in the attic’ thing. “Well, not a liar that would lie in newspapers!”

“It’s a compliment, I promise. A forgery on this scale would take a lot of time and effort and attention to detail. Not many thirteen-year-olds would even try,” I say. “Who else did you contact about this, Miguel?” We’re a small publication, not even specialising in music history, and as much as my editor will hate to read this, there are other magazines better-equipped to handle this story.

“Well, I wrote to Remembrance [: the Official Ernesto de la Cruz Fan Magazine] and a couple of other places, but they didn’t write back. Or they threatened to sue me for libel,” Miguel says.

“It was pretty optimistic to try Remembrance. You’re attacking their idol, after all.”

“Miguel doesn’t have the artistic ability to forge documents,” Abuelita Elena argues. “I remember, when he was nine-”

Miguel’s eyes go wide. “Abuelita. No.”

“-he came home from school crying one day. We said, what’s wrong, mijo? And he says-”

“Abuelita, stop!”

“-the teacher put my drawing on the wall! So we say, but that’s good, muchachito? And he says-”

Miguel covers his head with both hands, and Abuelita Elena flings her hands out as she arrives at the punchline.

“-but she hung it upside-down!”

Miguel peers at me balefully between his fingers. I try very hard not to smile.

The fact, though, is this: Miguel is taking an excellent shot at it, yes, but destroying Ernesto’s reputation isn’t his goal. He wants to rehabilitate his great-great-grandfather and lift his family’s taboo on music. The only people he needs to convince are  the seven adults in the Rivera family, and all of them live in this house. Abuelita Elena is unquestionably in charge, and she’s convinced. Goal accomplished. So why take the risk of throwing forged documents in front of the juggernaut that is the Ernesto fandom?

The last letter isn’t even the document that Miguel needs. That would be the death certificate and the report of the burial. The originals of both are held in secure archives, safe from any potential tampering. No alteration there would survive even a cursory inspection.

The letters are the only part that could have been forged with any hope of success, but from the backstory I’ve been given, that would require the connivance of the entire family. Could the musical vendetta possibly stretch that far? And if it did, why would Miguel cooperate? Miguel might have snuck the last letter into the stack before revealing them to the rest of the family, but again, why? If he had gained access to the letters before the rest of the family, and he had genuinely found this last letter from Ernesto de la Cruz, the sensible option would have been to tear it into little pieces and eat it.

I don’t want to believe that these documents are genuine, but I am very much afraid that they are. “This does still fall short of proof that Ernesto murdered your great-great-grandfather.”

It’s a pretty flimsy defence. Miguel raises his eyebrows at me, unimpressed. Well, it’s true; you don’t have to cause a death to conceal it. Murderer is off the table, but that’s not much consolation when liar, thief and traitor are still available.

“You need to submit the letters for forensic examination. Of the document, and the handwriting. Ideally, with people who’ve worked on de la Cruz material in the past.”

Miguel nods, without a flicker of alarm. “Okay. That's sensible, I guess. Do you know anyone?”

The Letters are carefully parcelled up the next day, after transcription and photographing, and dispatched by courier for investigation. It was simple to verify the accuracy of the photocopied documents—the death certificate, the baptismal record and the priest’s report of the burial—and the archivist at Monterrey reports that his new shoes are the best he’s ever worn. A conclusion on the authenticity of the Rivera Letters will have to wait another two or three months, from the time this article is published.

Miguel isn’t worried. “Well,” he says, with a smile that shows off his dimple, “I already know they’re real.”

Notes from the Rivera Letters, following transcription and photographing:

Xolo:

In the third letter, April 19, Héctor writes: ‘We stayed two days in Orizaba and your godpapa Ernesto made a new friend! A wild xolo dog. It was because of his giant hat, Coco, remember his giant hat? It matches his giant head. The dog got into the shade of it and wouldn’t leave. It followed him – or his hat - just like a lovesick girl. I told him it was a bad omen and coming to take him to the afterlife so he thumped me. The dog followed us to the train station as well, and watched sadly as the train carried Ernesto’s hat into the far distance. The romance would never have lasted though. Ernesto would have left it for a chihuahua.’ Xolo is entered into the songbook April 23.

Un Poco Loco:

The refrain ‘ay, mi amor’ appears repeatedly, running the full gamut between teasing and grovelling abasement (April 15, May 12 and 30, June 14 and 22, July 6).  In the second letter, April 15, Héctor writes: ‘If I say the sky is blue you argue with me.’ In the fifth letter, May 1, Héctor writes: ‘I have a hole in the sole of my left boot I can put my little finger through. What should I do, shoemaker? Besides [imitating Imelda’s handwriting] smack myself in the head with it of course - I can work that part out for myself.’ Un Poco Loco is entered into the Songbook dated May 18. In the eighth letter, May 21, Héctor writes: ‘I’ve written a song for my favourite tyrant - that’s your mama, darling, before she gets jealous. I’ll wait to show it to you both until I’m home so she can object in person.’

Viento Tintado:

In the seventh letter, May 12, Héctor writes: ‘Will you write me a letter? I know I won’t get it, of course. I don’t know if you’re even reading these or if you’re burning them to save on kindling or giving them to Coco to draw on. (If you are, hello my darling! Papa loves you!) Write to me, tear it up and throw it into the wind. It can’t be less reliable than the post is and then whenever I feel the cold wind brush the back of my neck I will think yes, Imelda is thinking of me!’ Viento Tintado is entered into the Songbook on May 28, though altered extensively later. The first verse is copied out in an early form in the ninth letter, May 30, addressed to Coco.

The World Es Mi Familia:

In the sixth letter, May 8: ‘The further we travel the harder it is to understand the accents and I bet it’s just as hard for them to understand us. Luckily I have a guitar and a big smile. Music is the universal language!’ In the eighth letter, May 21: ‘Ernesto teases me for writing too often and spending all my money on paper. We are musicians, he says, the world is our familia! Yes Ernesto but there is familia and there is familia. Ernesto pretended to be sad until I promised that he is familia, he’s practically my brother. Luckily he hasn’t heard your definition of brother, mi amor, [imitating Imelda’s handwriting] an infuriating person you can’t kill.’ The World Es Mi Familia is entered into the Songbook dated June 1. The tenth letter, June 7, reports: ‘Have written new introduction song, and heard people in the street singing it the morning after first performance! It would have been nice if they weren’t singing so loudly but that’s my own fault for getting too friendly with the tequila.’

Remember Me:

The full lyrics and music to ‘Remember Me’ appear untitled in the third letter, April 19, addressed to Coco. This is apparently to help ‘Coco’s mama’ join in with what Héctor refers to as ‘the Rivera Family Patented Long-Distance Musical Fiesta!’ The lyrics and sheet music are subsequently entered in the Songbook, dated June 12; notably, they are entered in a finished state, with no evidence of the alterations and edits made to other songs. In the eleventh letter, June 14, Héctor states ‘Ernesto has been pestering me and pestering me for weeks to ‘immortalise’ Coco’s lullaby in my music book and I finally gave in. He says he thinks it should be happier and more lively and I say Ernesto, I don’t think it’s a very happy song. He says it’s a good song to play at the end of a show but I don’t want to and I wrote it so I win. There are all the songs in the world for everybody else. Coco can keep this one for herself.’

Chapter Text

Luisa @hyperburrito

EVERYONE READ @HerenciaOaxaquena RIGHT NOW, THIS IS NOT A DRILL #DLCporsiempre #musicianormurderer #riveraletters

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

Why, what’s going on? I don’t like that second tag.

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

find a copy of Herencia Oaxaquena, its a history magazine #riveraletters

 

Guadalupe Ruiz @guadalupe_r

@HerenciaOaxaquena have made the article available on their website. #riveraletters

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

Are these guys fishing for a chunk of DLC’s estate or something? Gross. It’s not even respectful to their g-g-grandfather. #riveraletters

 

blop @blopez

no way! This is bullshit, DLC wrote ALL his own songs #riveraletters

 

blop @blopez

i’m gonna rip this miguel kid a new one, seriously, this has to be libel #riveraletters

 


 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

@DLC_recuerdo @DLC Have you seen this article? What do you think? #riveraletters

 

Remembrance Magazine @DLC_recuerdo

Ernesto’s still making headlines 70 years after his death! Congratulations, @HerenciaOxaquena – how exciting to have found a scribe for Ernesto’s music! Perhaps even a potential collaborator? #riveraletters

 

Remembrance Magazine @DLC_recuerdo

Anyone who knows anything about Ernesto knows these allegations just don’t hold water. Here in the office we suspect Señora Imelda wrote that last one! Maybe she thought it would be easier for Coco. #riveraletters

 

The Museum of Ernesto de la Cruz @DLCMuseo

We are very interested to see the new sources uncovered by @HerenciaOaxaquena but currently see no reason to take all of them at face value. #riveraletters

 

Oaxacan Heritage @HerenciaOaxaquena

@jacosta Great to see the buzz for our new article! Sadly document analysis will take a while. Please wait patiently! #riveraletters

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

wait patiently? WAIT PATIENTLY #riveraletters

 


 

RAWR @rhinosaur

@jacosta @HerenciaOaxaquena Please write a follow up article!

 

Oaxacan Heritage @HerenciaOaxaquena

@rhinosaur We’ll continue following this story as it develops. Thanks for reading! #riveraletters

 

Guadalupe Ruiz @guadalupe_r

@rhinosaur @HerenciaOaxaquena

 


 

Manuel @quetzalchorizo

should the forensics people be looking at the Songbook as well? To compare them? that’ll prove this isn’t true #riveraletters

 

blop @blopez

no need, it’s definitely all crap. DLC’s been accused of killing people before and it’s always made up for attention. #riveraletters

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@blopez That’s... less than completely reassuring.

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

All his friends were celebrities who liked tequila, fast cars and living in the 1940s. It’d be weird if none of them had died young.

 


 

Ana Maria @ana_conda

If the Riveras track down HR’s body they should have that forensically examined as well. Arsenic sticks around #riveraletters

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

@jacosta Can you do a series where the Riveras just sit around and natter? #riveraletters

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

Dios mio it’s like everyone already decided he’s guilty, this is a witch hunt or something :( :( :( I BELIEVE IN ERNESTO #riveraletters

 

Guadalupe Ruiz @guadalupe_r

The family sounds like kooky anti-music cultists to me. It all sounds very suspicious. I’m surprised @HerenciaOaxaquena were taken in. #riveraletters

 

Manuel @quetzalchorizo

@jacosta @HerenciaOaxaquena you should be ashamed of yourselves. you’re supposed to be celebrating Oaxacan culture, not crapping all over our best export #riveraletters

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

@jacosta when the results come back fake I hope you get fired #riveraletters

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

@jacosta I bet they bribed you with ugly shoes #riveraletters

 

Guadalupe Ruiz @guadalupe_r

@jacosta Congratulations on your article! Is this your first major publication? I don’t think I’ve heard of you before.

 


 

blop @blopez

seriously how do I @ this miguel kid? what’s his twitter #riveraletters

 

WELL IT DOES @oaxacasucks

he’s 13 and he lives in the 2nd-poorest state and makes shoes with his hands he doesn’t have a goddamn twitter #riveraletters

 

blop @blopez

seriously? well i’m pissed but i guess i’m not handwritten hatemail pissed

 


 

From the Museum of Ernesto de la Cruz

 

On the ‘Rivera Letters’.

G. Ruiz, Publicity Officer

 

Any public figure will always find a cloud of rumour and suspicion swirling around them, and this goes double for celebrities. It is simply the nature of the position and, despite his wholesome charm, Ernesto de la Cruz is no exception. Some of these scandals derived from real incidents in the turbulent, dramatic world of the entertainment industry; most famously, de la Cruz was briefly under suspicion after the tragic early death of Marcos Garrido, though this was found to be a simple inebriated accident; de la Cruz later took the most careful precautions to avoid another incident and had a professional lifeguard on standby at every party.

Other scandals, however, have been purposefully fabricated. The Escamilla forgeries of 1968 suggested that de la Cruz carried on an affair with Mariola Rojas, his married co-star in Nuestra Iglesia, and cast doubts on the paternity of Rojas’s son Eduardo which were later categorically disproved through blood type analysis. The Ixtapaluca documents accused him of fabricating false pedigree papers for his prize chihuahua Montezuma. A diary purporting to be by the director of 1940s flop Ciudad de Oro, who had rejected de la Cruz’s offer to star, implicated him in an epidemic of food poisoning on set which delayed shooting with disastrous coincidences. Each and every one of these documents were found to be fraudulent following examination by professionals in the USA.

It is in light of this fact that the Museum recommends severe scepticism when reading about the newly-discovered Rivera Letters, a set of documents presented to minor history magazine Oaxacan Heritage by a family of shoemakers in Santa Cecilia. These documents appear to argue that most if not all of the songs appearing in de la Cruz’s Songbook were stolen from an ancestor of theirs, an obscure guitarist who died young in what are claimed to be suspicious circumstances. Certain of the accompanying documents (the baptismal record, death certificate and record of Hector Rivera’s funeral) are undeniably genuine, but this does not suffice to authenticate the Letters, and the Museum sees no need to offer a serious comment on them at this time.

However, as the so-called Rivera Letters appear to call the authenticity of the Songbook itself into question, there has been some debate on social media regarding whether the Museum should submit the Songbook for further handwriting analysis and comparison.

The analysts working on the so-called Rivera Letters have not requested the loan of the artefact, and would not need to should a comparison be deemed necessary. The scans and facsimiles which the Museum has made freely available would be more than sufficient.

More importantly, however, the Songbook is a delicate artefact which cannot be safely removed from its climate-controlled case. Curator Francisco de la Cavalleria states: ‘It would be a breach of my duty as Curator to allow the Songbook to be removed from the premises, or even handled. Sadly, it was cheaply made and heavily used, and is now almost eighty years old. It simply cannot stand up to rough handling. The book doesn’t need to be examined, though; we have had it analysed twice earlier in its history, once after the foundation of the Museum and then in response to the Escamilla forgeries, and on both occasions the experts concluded that there’s no reason Ernesto can’t have personally written every word in it.’

It is the position of the Museum that there is a simple explanation for the deviation between the script in the Songbook and later verified samples of Ernesto’s writing. Ernesto finished adding to the Songbook in July 1921 and the earliest verified sample of his handwriting is from 1926. A person’s handwriting can be expected to change over the course of five years. Moreover, the Songbook was written for private use, while the later samples were taken from letters, and almost everybody will alter their handwriting when it is intended to be read by somebody else. Suggesting otherwise, in the face of all reputable evidence, is nothing less than spreading conspiracy theories and needlessly defaming the character of Ernesto de la Cruz.

The Museum trusts that when the so-called Rivera Letters are returned from analysis, the Rivera family and Oaxacan Heritage will cease to publish their unprovable allegations. If they are not willing to do so, we would advise them to discuss their suspicions with our legal representatives.

 


 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

check out @DLCMuseo ‘advise them to discuss their suspicions w/ our legal representatives’ lol #riveraletters

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

I hope they get their nice shoes sued out from under them #riveraletters

 


 

blop @blopez

santa cecilia makes bank off DLC, doesn’t it? they should be more loyal. if i was there i’d put a last through the kid’s head #riveraletters

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

I don’t think you can do that. I’m pretty sure a last is harder than anybody’s skull.

 

blop @blopez

i bet i could if i tried hard enough

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

GUYS i know everyones mad but its not cool to talk about attacking kids, hes only thirteen :( #riveraletters

 

blop @blopez

dios mio, honey, calm down. it’s the internet, not real life #riveraletters

 


 

AIRED FEB 5 2018

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

 

[...]

 

DIEGO: Now, we’ve seen some harsh accusations thrown around in recent months, and it feels like everyone’s been flocking to social media to defend—or condemn—their favourite stars. There has been a very unusual case lately, though. What do you think, Marisol? If somebody were saying dreadful things about one of your idols, would you be more or less likely to defend them if they had already passed on?

 

MARISOL: Well, I do have to ask… am I very sure they’re innocent?

 

DIEGO: [laughs] Let’s assume so, shall we?

 

MARISOL: Hm. Well… oh, this is hard! Somebody who’s dead can’t defend themselves, but then wherever the dead are, I think they must have more important things to think about than their reputations, mustn’t they?

 

DIEGO: I’d like to think so.

 

MARISOL: Yes. And then, defending somebody often means attacking someone else, and I don’t think it can be quite fair to attack somebody who’s alive for the sake of somebody who, well, isn’t.

 

DIEGO: That kind of online harassment can be a real concern, though, particularly when it’s no longer just online. I think a lot of people will know the case I’m talking about-

 

MARISOL: Ernesto de la Cruz?

 

DIEGO: Just the man! Ernesto de la Cruz, perhaps Mexico’s greatest musician, certainly one of the giants, recently accused of the worst crime of all-

 

MARISOL: Oh, let me, let me!

 

DIEGO: Marisol, would you do the honours?

 

MARISOL: MUUUUURRRDEEERRR!

 

DIEGO: [laughter] Thank you, Marisol! Yes, viewers, murder, and something else which personally I think is a little more concerning for being more plausible. The Rivera family from Santa Cecilia, Ernesto’s hometown, claim to have discovered letters from their great-great-grandfather suggesting that Ernesto outright stole his music and his credit. It’s the most exciting thing to have happened in the DLC fandom since the Escamilla forgeries, and the reaction has been… passionate. We sent one of our daring interns to meet the Rivera family.

 

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

 

RAFAEL [OFFSCREEN]: So the article was published January thirteenth, and you received the first call-

 

ENRIQUE: On the fourteenth.

 

ELENA: They called and my daughter Gloria picked up the phone—“Bueno, Rivera Family Shoemakers!”--and they swore at her and hung up! I called them back to tell them what I thought of them but the cobarde wouldn’t pick up the phone. And then the next call came a few hours later—Vile people! Calling my house, insulting my grandson, insulting my worthless grandfather-

 

ENRIQUE: We’ve been getting two or three calls a day, and letters too, saying that we’re bad people or making threats.

 

ELENA: Someone posted us a picture of our own house! Looking straight down at it, like from a plane. Señorita Acosta told us they took it from the Internet, but why should the Internet have a picture of my house?

 

ENRIQUE: They have a picture of everybody’s house, Mama. It’s not personal.

 

MIGUEL: We found Abel’s frisbee on the roof, though!

 

ELENA: And someone put a sign on our gate that said ‘liars’, but I don’t think that can have been someone from Santa Cecilia. Everybody here knows us! We’re honest people. It must have been a stranger - Enrique?

 

ENRIQUE: Somebody called the padre anonymously and said I’d been… seeing another woman--

 

MIGUEL: He means having an affair. They said he was having an affair.

 

ELENA: Miguel! Mind your manners!

 

ENRIQUE: Thanks, Miguel.

 

MIGUEL: Which isn’t true! None of us believed it for a second. Mama laughed. She said there weren’t two women in Mexico who would put up with him.

 

ENRIQUE: I said thanks, Miguel. But the padre came to the house to talk to my wife and my mother. He wouldn’t believe that it was just a lie some hateful person was spreading.

 

ELENA: Some vicious little canalla…

 

ENRIQUE: I suppose priests must see the worst of people when they take confession, but it’s upsetting when somebody who’s known you so long seems willing to believe a stranger’s word over yours. And it’s such a ridiculous thing to lie about! Finding out something bad about a musician you like?

 

ELENA: This is what music does to people, Enriqueto. Poof! All their common sense, just gone!

 

RAFAEL [OFFSCREEN]: I’m sorry that happened. How have the other people in Santa Cecilia reacted?

 

ENRIQUE: A lot of people are annoyed, but I think that’s reasonable. Tourists come here to see where Ernesto lived, and a few people are worried what will happen to their incomes if the tourists stop coming.

 

ELENA: More people are coming than ever, though!

 

MIGUEL: You know Jose Martínez? His papa sells the big-headed dolls. He’s started selling Ernestos in prison uniform as well. He keeps score of how many of each he sells. … The not-in-prison one is winning. But people buy more to make sure it stays that way!

 

ENRIQUE: What’s the saying? The only bad publicity is no publicity? I hope that’s true.

 

ELENA: More people are coming here, more people are probably going to that museum. They should send us a card.

 

RAFAEL [OFFSCREEN]: Did you anticipate the scale of the response, or has it surprised you?

 

ELENA: Señorita Acosta said a lot of people might be upset, but we didn’t take that seriously.

 

ENRIQUE: I expected we might get some angry letters, but people calling the house at all hours? Not that I’d have stopped you, Miguel.

 

ELENA: If we find out anything else terrible about that stupid man we’ll tell everybody that as well.

 

RAFAEL [OFFSCREEN]: Is there anything you can do to deal with the harrassment?

 

ELENA: Well… we couldn’t just let the phone ring during the day. We have a business to run.

 

ENRIQUE: The police can’t do anything—oh, somebody is phoning you? They’re somewhere in Mexico, you say? Come back to us when you can narrow it down.

 

MIGUEL: We think a lot of the calls are the same person. A lady?

 

ENRIQUE: That eliminates half the population of the country. We’re making progress!

 

ELENA: So we put an air horn next to the phone.

 

MIGUEL: The neighbours aren’t pleased.

 

ENRIQUE: Neither is Luisa, if you wake up the baby! … but all we can do is be patient, really. We know we’ll be vindicated in the end, when the analysis comes back from the lab.

 

RAFAEL [OFFSCREEN]: You have total faith that the letters are authentic, then?

 

ELENA: Of course! Those letters came straight from my mama. My mama was no liar!

 

ENRIQUE: Of course they’re authentic. What do people think we did? Sat around the kitchen table and invented them so we could send them to a laboratory that would tell us they weren’t real?

 

RAFAEL [OFFSCREEN]: What do you think will happen when the results come out?

 

ELENA: Hopefully a lot of people will think they’ve wasted a lot of their time.

 

ENRIQUE: Some academic types will probably get very excited… we didn’t do this, publicise the letters, to get attention, you know. Or at least not attention for us.

 

ELENA: We could do with less attention for us! Though it’s not your fault, mijo.

 

ENRIQUE: Miguel wanted his great-great-grandfather to get more credit, and we want what Miguel wants. I think the fuss will have to die down when the results come out, though. Once the truth is out it’s out. What else is there to say?

 

RAFAEL [OFFSCREEN]: What do you think, Miguel?

 

MIGUEL: Santa Cecilia’s very quiet. Not much happens here, but this is… memorable. I don’t know about people all over Mexico, but I think the people who live here are going to remember this for a while.

 

[END VIDEO CLIP]

 

DIEGO: That’s your top tip for the day, folks: keep an air horn by your phone! It works on telemarketers, pollsters, political canvassers-

 

MARISOL: One by the phone and another by the door!

 

DIEGO: [laughter] But really, what an awful story! It’s best to remember what Marisol said: don’t treat somebody who’s alive badly for the sake of somebody who isn’t.

 

MARISOL: I can’t wait until the results are out! This is the most excited I’ve ever been about document analysis. Maybe the most excited anyone’s ever been?

DIEGO: It wouldn’t surprise me! It’ll be another four to six weeks—I know, it’s too long!--but we’ll be right here to give you all the details as soon as we get them.

 

[…]

 

DIEGO: You can catch us again tomorrow, with all the new news from the entertainment world. Same time, same channel. Don’t miss out!

 

MARISOL: Thanks so much for tuning in, and we hope the rest of your day is just as good as it can be!

 

END

 


 

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

Did you see Miguel? ‘I think people will remember this for a while’ :D :D :D … carino, if people are calling your house that’s not a great thing #riveraletters

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

It’s kind of suspicious. Setting up a fake like this and then letting it get sent to the experts makes perfect sense IF the goal is to become notorious. :/ #riveraletters

 


 

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

Ugh, post, my copy of @HerenciaOaxaquena with the letters in JUST arrived it feels like it’s been MONTHS #riveraletters

 

Guadalupe Ruiz @guadalupe_r

Does anybody know whether the Riveras were paid to allow publication of the transcriptions? It’s important to know if they’re profiting from this farce. #riveraletters.

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

aw, man, I didn’t think they would be cute. Hector sounds like such a dork it’s adorable and I love the thing about the dog #riveraletters

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

hey, I didn’t say I think they’re real or anything, don’t @ me :( :(

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hyperburrito the word that was created to describe this possibly-imaginary dumbass is ‘adorkable’ #riveraletters

 


 

 

Ernesto de la Cruz’s accounts book and the Rivera letters : a comparison

Posted on 20/2/2018 by Prof. Juan Sebastián Dávalos, Conservatorio Nacional de Música

 

Beneath Ernesto de la Cruz’s charm and on-stage flamboyance beat the cool heart of a businessman and, like most people similarly afflicted, he kept a tight rein on his finances. Later in life, when his fortunes justified it, he kept two accountants, but in the early years he kept track of his own income and outgoings in cramped shorthand in a small notebook.

The authenticity and accuracy of the Budget Book have both been disputed. The authenticity because the handwriting isn’t a close match for the Songbook, but the tiny size doesn’t allow for a naturalistic hand. Besides, it’s hard to think of a reason for de la Cruz to keep a record of anybody else’s budget. As for the accuracy, Muller (2009) suggests that the reason de la Cruz later had to employ two accountants is because he simply wasn’t very good at doing it himself.

During the course of his first tour, de la Cruz makes entries no more than every other day for ‘fd’ and ‘bd’—food and a bed—despite apparently making sufficient money and describing himself on his first travels as ‘more comfortable than other musicians I knew’. On occasion he notes money spent on ‘tckts’; on other occasions we know he must have travelled between towns by rail, but there’s no corresponding entry. De la Cruz’s record-keeping improves after the end of July 1921, when he abruptly leaves the north and returns to Mexico City. Some scholars have argued that he was fleeing a love affair gone wrong. Some, based on an entry in May for $7 ‘brwd frm H’, argue that he was escaping debts. Hernandez (2012) suggests he was running away from a romantic partner to whom he owed money.

De la Cruz abruptly stops adding to the record in September, with more than two-thirds of the notebook unused. Muller theorises that de la Cruz upgraded to a bigger and higher-quality record book, which did not survive due to being more heavily used.

At the risk of setting myself up for embarrassment, it occurred to me while reading the transcriptions of the Rivera Letters that several of the discrepancies would be explained if de la Cruz were travelling with a companion, and they took it it turns to pay for food, lodging and travel. It may be significant that de la Cruz consistently records buying ‘tckts’, not ‘tckt’. A companion with the initial H would fit very nicely. This theory would seem to be confirmed by Letter 10, June 7 th : ‘Ran into Tino R again —we met first I think in Ixtapaluca. His breed of starving artist is even hungrier than ours so we bought him dinner. O r Ernesto did. I t was his turn. Lucky for me! ’ This matches a larger-than-usual payment for ‘fd’ on June 5 th . (One of the potential artists of the Sepulveda Sketch was named Valentín Rodriguez.)

A comparison of the dates and locations given in the letters gives an almost perfect correlation to Ernesto’s known itinerary, delineated in detail in the table below.

In addition, there are other statements from the letters explaining or justifying entries in the Budget Book. The aforementioned entry of $7 ‘brwd frm H’ dated May 12th, could be linked to a comment in Letter 6, May 8th, that ‘Ernesto’s case has split. He’s buckled it shut with his belt but I still have to walk behind him picking up his socks. I’m worried his pants might fall down onstage and we’ll be known forever after as the Músicos Sin Pantalones.’

In Letter 14, July 5 th , three weeks before Hector Rivera’s death, he describes fleeing an inn in the middle of the night: ‘Ernesto kicked me and I woke up and thought I was covered in pepper corns. The bed was hopping with insects. I screamed, seized my guitar and threw myself head-first from the window. Ernesto tossed down my clothes and followed. We plunged ourselves into a ditch of muddy water to drown the fleas and slept there instead. It was more comfortable. I’m exaggerating of course you already know that but we did not make a graceful exit. Ernesto’ s gone to demand his money back but I expect the innkeeper has swallowed it.’ On July 5 th , Ernesto purchases ‘nsct psn’.

If you haven’t read the Rivera Letters yet, then firstly, what rock have you been living under? and secondly, you really ought to. They’re a fascinating body of work, which slots into the known facts like a well-made jigsaw puzzle. If they really are a forgery perpetrated by a thirteen-year-old boy, then Miguel Rivera is wasted as a musician, and he urgently needs to become a historical novelist.

 

References

 

Acosta, Josefina (ed.) (2017) The Rivera letters : an annotated transcription, with reproductions of the originals. Oaxacan Heritage, 64, pp. 12-46.

Garrido, Dante (2009). A comprehensive timeline. In Alvarado, E. and Espinosa, U. (eds.). Essays on the life of Ernesto de la Cruz . Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, pp. 15-37.

Hernandez, Susana (2012). Scandal on the silver screen : Ernesto’s private life in his films. Mexico : Instituto de Investigaciones Esteticas, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.

Muller, Esteban (2009). No accounting for taste: de la Cruz’s budget book. In Alvarado, E. and Espinosa, U. (eds.). Essays on the life of Ernesto de la Cruz. Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, pp. 112-123.

Secada, Mario (ed.) (1993). Seizing my moment: the writings of Ernesto de la Cruz. 3rd ed. Mexico City: DLC Museo.

 


 

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

He’d have plenty of time to draft historical novels in jail #riveraletters

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

I didn’t realise the guy in letter 10 might have done the Sepulveda! That’s pretty cool. @jacosta did you notice that? #riveraletters

 


 

Oaxacan Heritage @HerenciaOaxaquena

Exciting news! The analysis on the Rivera letters has been completed. Stand by for the final report! #riveraletters

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

AAAAAH AAAAAH AAAAAAAAAAAAH

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hyperburrito ...honey, breathe

Chapter Text

Oaxacan Heritage @HerenciaOaxaquena

www.herenciaoaxaquena.mx/rivera/autenticacion Visit our website for the full details! #riveraletters

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

‘Two letters were apparently written on pages torn from the Songbook.’ … well, that seems conclusive.

 


 

 Luisa @hyperburrito

oh my god oh my god oh my god #riveraletters

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hyperburrito That was about my reaction, too.

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@ololuihqui i thought it was only the live guys who could STOMP on your HEART :( :( :( taking down all my posters rn

 


 

The results of the analysis of the Rivera Letters.

Josefina Acosta

Rivera Family press representative

 

Following exhaustive analysis by IEV Labs in New Mexico, the Rivera family and Oaxacan Heritage are pleased to say that the documents known as the Rivera Letters have been judged authentic.

A copy of the full report from IEV Labs is attached below, in PDF format. I strongly recommend reading it, but to provide a brief summary:

While it isn’t possible to precisely confirm the age of any piece of paper, results from fibre analysis of the letters are consistent with an origin in the 1910s or 1920s, as is the chemical composition of the ink. More significantly, however, two letters were apparently written on pages torn from the Songbook. The tearing along the inside edge of the sixth letter, May 8 th , is a close match to what remains of leaf 53, and the tenth letter, June 7 th , to leaf 55. Two of the other letters may possibly be missing sheets from the Songbook, but not with the same degree of certainty. The handwriting analyst has judged it ‘highly likely’ that Ernesto de la Cruz did write the last letter, and states ‘with a high degree of certainty’ that the Songbook and the letters signed as Héctor Rivera were written by the same person. The final results would therefore appear to support the Riveras’ theory that their great-great-grandfather was largely or wholly responsible for writing the songs attributed to Ernesto de la Cruz.

The Rivera family are very happy to be vindicated, but appreciate that many people will find this difficult to read. While they believe that Ernesto de la Cruz did write the letter which defamed Héctor Rivera, they cannot speculate on what drove him to do so.

The family’s next priority is to locate the remains of Héctor Rivera, if possible, and re-inter him in Santa Cecilia beside his wife and daughter. So far it has been established that as his body was never claimed, he was disinterred in 1954 to make space for another burial. It is not yet clear what happened to the remains after this. Oaxacan Heritage would be delighted to hear from anyone who thinks they may be able to assist in the search.

 


 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

so they were right about everything? literally everything? #riveraletters

 

blop @blopez

no way, this is unbelieveable. IRL pinching myself right now. #riveraletters

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

It would be so nice if just one famous person could… not be a total jackass. #riveraletters

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

Other celebrities: *do drugs* *drive drunk* *have offensive sex*

DLC: Hold my guitar. #riveraletters

 

Ana Maria @ana_conda

@rhinosaur ‘Hold my murder victim’s guitar’ FTFY

 


 

 

blop @blopez

I bet rivera wasn’t as good a singer as ernesto. zero people noticed or cared he was dead #riveraletters

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@blopez 1) His wife 2) His baby daughter? I think it was opportunism, not murder, but show a little respect.

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

@blopez Wow, yeah, Ernesto was probably doing everyone a huge favour by murdering him.

 

blop @blopez

@crash_barracudas nobody’s proven murder #riveraletters

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

@blopez Either he was a murderer or clinically insane and hallucinating dead people. Lying about a death you witnessed is pretty suspicious. #riveraletters

 

blop @blopez

@crash_barracudas he probably thought it was for the best #riveraletters

 

blop @blopez

@crash_barracudas the wife was craaaaay, he prob figured she’d rather be angry than depressed #riveraletters

 

blop @blopez

@crash_barracudas who bans music anyway #riveraletters

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@blopez And yet Mrs Rivera was still less craaaaaay than you!

 


 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hyperburrito Did you see the press release from the Museum? #riveraletters

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@ololiuhqui yeah, I guess they’re trying to make the best of it

 


 

From the Museum of Ernesto de la Cruz

 

On the ‘Rivera Letters’.

Francisco de la Cavalleria, Curator

 

It is with profound shock and heavy hearts that we at the Museum of Ernesto de la Cruz accept the conclusions of IEV Labs regarding the Rivera Letters. It appears that Ernesto may not have written his well-known music alone, and deliberately concealed this fact for the sake of his reputation.

This goes against all that was previously known about his character, and the staff of the Museum will not be alone in feeling a deep sense of betrayal, and even of disbelief. Owing however to IEV Labs’ sterling reputation, for both expertise and integrity, the Museum finds their conclusions indisputable.

As curator of the Museum, I wish to assure all of Ernesto’s fans that the Museum will treat these revelations with the respect and gravity which they merit.

 


 

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hyperburrito Not that press release, the first one.

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@ololiuhqui there was a first one???

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

@DLCMuseo Nice try, but we all saw the first version. #riveraletters

 

Ana Maria @ana_conda

@DLCMuseo The internet is forever.

 

Manuel @quetzalchorizo

@rhinosaur @ana_conda I didn’t see it.

 

Ana Maria @ana_conda

@quetzalchorizo Here you go. Screencapped for posterity! #riveraletters

 


 

From the Museum of Ernesto de la Cruz

 

The conclusion on the ‘Rivera Letters’

G. Ruiz, Publicity Officer

 

IEV Labs, in the United States of America, today released their final verdict on the so-called Rivera Letters. It is the opinion of the experts that the letters are genuine, and that Ernesto’s Songbook was instead written by an entirely unknown guitarist named Héctor Rivera, of Santa Cecilia. As Ernesto de la Cruz was well-known for his excellent character, as attested by dozens of the people who knew him or worked with him, this is understandably astonishing to all of us at the Museum and, no doubt, to all of Ernesto’s fans.

However, IEV Labs is for the most part a reputable institute, barring an unfortunate incident in 2008 when a conclusion and conviction were overturned following the discovery that an examiner had accepted a financial inducement, and so despite the Rivera family’s previous boasts about bribing researchers to get the results they want, the Museum at this point accepts their claim that the Rivera Letters are genuine.

 


 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

‘Well, this is a blatant forgery but THESE are blatantly really great shoes' said nobody ever #riveraletters

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hafflepaff It was a seriously bad call. I see why they deleted it. #riveraletters

 

Manuel @quetzalchorizo

@MuseoDLC hey, fire your publicity officer, you're making us look bad #riveraletters

 

Remembrance Magazine @DLC_recuerdo

What a shock! Our congratulations to Miguel Rivera on his successful research. Find our full response here: www.dlcrecuerdo.co.mx/articulos/23-3-18 #riveraletters

 


 

I think I speak for everyone when I say that nobody could have been prepared for this. The revelation that the Rivera Letters are genuine is a world-changing paradigm shift, an earthquake, and I expect it to spark amazing things in the field of Ernesto scholarship for years to come.

On a personal note, however, I cannot express how devastating this is for me and no doubt everybody in the Ernesto fandom. Like all of you, I grew up with Ernesto’s music, I thought of him almost as a family friend more than a cultural touchstone. Then, when my love of Mexico’s music in general and Ernesto’s performances in particular led me to work at Remembrance Magazine, it felt very like settling into a big, enthusiastic, sometimes rambunctious family. The sense of betrayal is difficult to describe.

It is important, however, not to forget the greatest consequences of Ernesto’s deception, namely the grief caused to the late Imelda and Socorro Rivera. I would like to offer the Rivera family the deepest apologies, on behalf of everybody here at Remembrance, for the suggestion made earlier by magazine staff that Imelda Rivera could have—even with the best intentions—forged the last letter which we now know to probably have been written by Ernesto.

We are preparing an article on the Rivera Letters to run in our June issue, and intend for the October issue to focus on putting Héctor Rivera in a long-overdue spotlight.

 

Miguel Reyes

Editor

 


 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

@DLC_recuerdo @MuseoDLC See, guys, that’s how it’s done. #riveraletters

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

Remembrance are way better set up for this than the Museum. People will still want to read about Ernesto, but not to go to his house and look at his outfits.

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

next issue: Ernesto’s top ten murders! no 1 will amaze you!

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

Poll for my followers: was it murder? Or did Ernesto just Seize his Moment? #riveraletters

 

Ana @ana_conda

‘seize your dead bff’s journal’ FTFY

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hafflepaff How common was food poisoning in the 1920s? Did anybody gather those statistics? #riveraletters

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@ololiuhqui @hafflepaff It’s pretty bad now, and back then nobody had refrigerators, so I’d say… safer to just eat a gun.

 


 

Héctor and Ernesto : a lecture series for the summer term

Posted on 9/4/2018 by Prof. Juan Sebastián Dávalos, Conservatorio Nacional de Música

 

Following the bombshell conclusion on the Rivera Letters, a group of our postgraduate students have prepared talks on Ernesto de la Cruz’s music (or Héctor Rivera’s music, as the case may be) which will be presented as a sequence of lectures over the summer term. In fact, they’ve prepared them so quickly you’d think they wrote them when the transcriptions first came out. In this case, academic impatience has paid off!

The lectures will be held on consecutive Mondays, between 6:00 and 7:00 PM, in room 323.

23/04/2018 – The gift of genius : how did Ernesto describe ‘his’ songwriting?, presented by Francisca Campos Chapulin.

30/04/2018 – Deception as a theme in the films of Ernesto de la Cruz, presented by Óliver González.

7/5/2018 – A summary and analysis of other potential collaborators on de la Cruz’s work, presented by Víctor Alguacil.

14/5/2018 – Music hath charm to soothe… a guilty conscience? : the self-justifications of Ernesto de la Cruz, presented by Elisa Mastache.

21/5/2018 – Ernesto’s Remember Me: reinterpretation or misinterpretation?, presented by Juana Quesada.

28/5/2018 – ‘My favourite tyrant’ : romance versus art in the de la Cruz filmography, presented by Benito Rasgado.

Admission is free for all, and there’s no need to book. Just walk in! Why not come along to unwind from the stress of the exam season?

 


 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@ololiuhqui hey, does this affect copyright? is music a life+100 thing because then does it expire in 2021 or 2045?

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hyperburrito Music is 75 years from first performance. I don’t think it’ll affect anything. The Riveras should have a claim to past royalties, though.

 

Ana @ana_conda

@hyperburrito Doesn’t the Museum still own the rights to recordings of Ernesto’s performances? They definitely have to be asked when they’re put on TV.

 

Ana @ana_conda

@hyperburrito Their official response says he did it for his reputation. Seems like they’re really careful not to say ‘to avoid paying money’.

 


 

Oaxacan Heritage @HerenciaOaxaquena

www.herenciaoaxaquena.mx/rivera/exhumacion The remains of Héctor Rivera may have been found! Visit the website for the details. #riveraletters

 

A location and a disinterment.

Josefina Acosta

Rivera Family press representative

 

I am delighted to announce, on behalf of the Rivera family, that they have discovered a likely location for the body of Héctor Rivera. It has been discovered that following his disinterment in 1954, his remains were stored in a mausoleum until 1958. At that point, being still unclaimed, he was reburied in a more space-efficient fashion, below the coffin of the occupant in a fresh grave.

Thanks to the tireless assistance of the archdiocesan archives in Monterrey and the Tamaulipas Genealogical Society, we believe we have established which grave, and the family of the principal occupant have with great generosity agreed that the grave may be opened.

I don’t believe I need to tell anyone how exciting and nervewracking this is for the Rivera family (particularly those two making the expedition to the far north) and hope that you will share some of their feelings. Mama Coco had described her father to Miguel as having one gold tooth, so the family hopes to be able to make an identification one way or another very quickly, should any remains be found where they ought to be.

 


 

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@HerenciaOaxaquena This gold tooth wouldn’t happen to be on the upper right-hand side, would it? #riveraletters

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

@marimbamaria You’re thinking the gold-tooth guitar is a selfie? The 1900s generation, so egotistical.

 


 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

I hope they’re going to have the body investigated, too. Just in case it turns out to be swimming in arsenic. #riveraletters

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@ololiuhqui arsenic?

 

Ana @ana_conda

@hyperburrito @ololiuhqui That would have been the best choice, if he was poisoned. It looks most like food poisoning.

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@hyperburrito @ololiuhqui @ana_conda And they used to sell it in patent medicines. It wouldn’t have been hard to get hold of.

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

@ana_conda @marimba_maria you people know creepy amounts about murder, just saying. does everybody think it was poison?

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

@mil_colores 82% of my followers think it was murder, and it looked like food poisoning so I figure he didn’t get his head stoved in.

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

@mil_colores Unless it was a really lazy coroner. ‘Fell down three flights of stairs and drowned in a vat of salmonella? Checks out.’

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

@hafflepaff ‘look he tried to eat all these bullets’

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

@mil_colores ‘Overdose of steel directly to the intestines through this hole here.’

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@mil_colores @hafflepaff ‘They used too much pepper and he spontaneously caught fire.’

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

GUYS. breaking news from @mexnewsnetwork: body of ‘Remember Me’ songwriter stolen in van. http://bit.ly/4kb77v #riveraletters

 


 

Body of ‘Remember Me’ songwriter stolen in van

Last updated 12:18, 3/5/18

 One person is hurt after a van was stolen from a churchyard in Tamaulipas. The van is believed to contain the body of alleged ‘Remember Me’ songwriter Héctor Rivera.

 Enrique Rivera, father of Miguel, and his sister Gloria had travelled from Oaxaca to San Antonio de Padua in Tamaulipas in order to retrieve remains believed to belong to their great-grandfather. After the remains were disinterred, Enrique Rivera and the priest dealt with paperwork while Gloria Rivera placed the remains in the van. It is believed that while alone she was attacked by an unknown assailant, or assailants. Enrique Rivera left the church several minutes later, at approximately 09:45, and found Gloria bleeding from a head wound and apparently concussed. The van, with the remains inside, had been stolen. Gloria Rivera’s injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

The vehicle is described as a white Volkswagen panel van, with ‘Rivera Family Shoemakers’ painted on each side. It is not known whether the van or the remains were the primary target of the theft. Local police have stated that there are many possible lines of enquiry, and appealed for anyone who may have information to contact them. It is recommended that members of the public not approach the van if it is sighted.

Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Enrique and Gloria Rivera as the parents of Miguel.

 


 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@ololiuhqui oh no! Do you think someone’s trying to hide the body?

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hyperburrito It is pretty hard to test a body for poison when you can’t find it.

 


 

 las sombras tienen @mil_colores

how would the thief know it had rivera’s body in? #riveraletters #riveravan

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@mil_colores … it did have Rivera Family Shoemakers painted on the outside.

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

@marimba_maria all right, smartass

 


 

Josefina Acosta @jacosta

Gloria Rivera is recovering well from her concussion, but no information yet on the location of the van. Thank you for the good wishes! #riveravan

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

Maybe it’s a kidnapping. ‘Give us one million dollars or you’ll never see your grandfather alive aga—wait I didn’t think this through’ #riveravan

 

blop @blopez

@hafflepaff maybe it’s a cover-up to hide the total lack of evidence #riveravan

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@blopez diiiios miiiiio AND oh my god. BLOP OFF.

 

blop @blopez

@hyperburrito wow thats a really mature way of dealing with an argument

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@blopez LALALALALALALALA

 


 

Francisca retweeted:

Mexico News Network @mexnewsnetwork

#riveravan spotted on 180, south of Tampico. The driver appears to be a dark-haired woman in sunglasses. https://bit.ly/Q75qsO

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@mexnewsnetwork Excellent, that eliminates a full fifty percent of the population. #riveravan

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

If it’s south of Tampico it’s headed roughly towards Santa Cecilia. #riveravan

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@crash_barracudas should we try to warn somebody?

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

@crash_barracudas @hyperburrito Don’t panic. Okay sure, it’s gone south, but a loooot of Mexico is south of Tamaulipas. #riveravan

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

@mexnewsnetwork they took pictures? i will give… $26 to the first person to post a selfie with the #riveravan. that's a great deal. you could buy a whole coke. #riveravan

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@mexnewsnetwork @mil_colores I’ll pledge $50 but only if it’s still moving at the time.

 


 

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@ololiuhqui do you think it’s going to Santa Cecilia?

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hyperburrito There’s a lot of other places you can go from Tampico, and going to SC would just be a bad idea. Everyone there would recognise the van. it’s 2AM. GO TO BED.

 


 

Fernando @rockin_devil

@mexnewsnetwork I just saw this van outside half an hour ago! I work at a gas station north of Tehuacan. #riveravan

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

‘north of Tehuacan’ - so it’s been on the road for sixteen hours and heading for Santa Cecilia the whole time. #riveravan

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

@crash_barracudas Okay, now you may consider freaking out.

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

@jacosta Are the Riveras at home watching out? #riveravan

 

RAWR retweeted:

Mexico News Network @mexnewsnetwork

Breaking news: attempted arson at Rivera family home in Santa Cecilia, Oax. One believed rushed to hospital. https://bit.ly/2mBuGtL


 

 Attempted arson at Rivera family home in Santa Cecilia, Oaxaca

Last updated 06:37, 4/5/18

A woman arrested on suspicion of and attempted arson at the Rivera family home in Santa Cecilia, Oaxaca, is believed to be the suspect who earlier stole the van containing the remains of Héctor Rivera.

A woman, 37, has been arrested in Santa Cecilia on suspicion of assault, vehicle theft and attempted arson. It is believed that the suspect assaulted a member of the Rivera family in Tamaulipas, before stealing a van which contained human remains possibly belonging to Héctor Rivera (1899-1921), a musician recently revealed to have written many of the songs previously attributed to Ernesto de la Cruz. The suspect drove the van to the family home in Santa Cecilia, Oaxaca, and a fire was started outside the house, possibly aided by an accelerant, at around five o’clock in the morning. When members of the family emerged from the house, the suspect attempted to flee in the van, and a person was knocked down in the attempt. The suspect was detained by locals until police arrived. The fire is not believed to have caused significant damage, but at the present time we have no information on the status of the person injured.

 


 

RAWR @rhinosaur

@crash_barracudas Okay, should have panicked sooner.

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@mexnewsnetwork ‘no information on status of person injured’ - can you GUESS? #riveraletters #riveravan

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@ololiuhqui ugggh i can’t believe you made me go to bed

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hyperburrito It’s not as if you could have walked to SC and warned them.

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@jacosta Everyone is very concerned about the Rivera family. I appreciate that this must be a difficult time, but can we know if we can expect a statement? #riveraletters #riveravan

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@jacosta @ololiuhqui Don’t forget the dead guy, we’re worried about him too. Did they get the remains back? #riveravan

 

Oaxacan Heritage @HerenciaOaxaquena

www.herenciaoaxaquena.mx/rivera/reporte-de-incidente/ The Rivera family have released a statement regarding the incident earlier today. #riveraletters #riveravan

 


 

The arson attempt.

Josefina Acosta

Rivera Family press representative

 

As you have likely heard, the theft of the van in San Antonio de Padua culminated in arson at the Rivera family home in Santa Cecilia. As this is part of an ongoing investigation there are limits to what can be said, but I can confirm certain details. Many members of the family had stayed up or woken early to wait for updates. At approximately five o’clock in the morning, Miguel Rivera heard what he believed was a cat and dog fighting in the street. Abuelita Elena went out with a bucket of water to chase off the dog and, as the rest of the family were both bored and anxious, they followed her. They were surprised to see that a fire was burning at the foot of the exterior wall and the stolen van was parked outside the house. On seeing them approach, a person the family believes to be the suspect now in custody retreated from the fire and jumped into the driver’s seat of the van. Abuelita Elena threw the bucket of water at the fire, which unfortunately spread the flames further, leading to suspicion that some form of accelerant had been used.

Abel Rivera, an older cousin of Miguel, tried to block the van from leaving, but was clipped and knocked to the ground in the attempt. Fortunately, some early-rising citizens of Santa Cecilia had been alerted by the shouts of ‘Fire!’, and they were able to detain the driver of the van and assist in putting out the fire using the extinguishers kept in the family home. The remains believed to belong to Héctor Rivera were recovered from inside the van.

Abel Rivera has some nasty bruises but is not considered to be severely injured, and reports that anybody was rushed to hospital are inaccurate. Gloria Rivera is recovering well from her concussion and is expected to start for home later today. All members of the family are safe, and everyone supposed to be alive still is. Some damage has been done to the exterior of the house, along with some smoke damage to the room where the family keeps their ofrenda, but the family is confident it can be repaired.

The Rivera family would like to thank everyone in Santa Cecilia who came to help, along with the police and the Tamaulipeco medical personnel who assisted Gloria Rivera, and everyone who offered their best wishes. On their behalf, thank you all very much.

 


 

Luisa @hyperburrito

Dios mio, that’s a relief. my heart can stop beating now. #riveravan

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@hyperburrito I mean it can stop beating so much, I do still want it to beat a little. #riveravan

 

Francisca @oluliuhqui

@jacosta Thank you very much! I’m glad to hear everyone’s all right.

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

@jacosta That’s a relief. … I bet Abuelita made a hilarious face when the water made it worse.

 

Josefina Acosta @jacosta

@rhinosaur The police and the family have advised me not to speculate.

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@jacosta Okay but can we focus on the important thing here: the Riveras keep their ofrenda up all year? #riveraletters

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

@marimba_maria They are a very close-knit family…

 

Josefina Acosta @jacosta

@marimba_maria It’s only decorated for Dia de los Muertos, but the photographs are displayed year-round.

 


 

 

Mexico News Network @mexnewsnetwork

Suspect in Rivera van theft and arson identified as Guadalupe Ruiz, recently-suspended employee at @MuseoDLC https://bit.ly/1eTs9Qd

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

@mexnewsnetwork @MuseoDLC OOOOOOOH. i’m getting popcorn. #riveraletters

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@mexnewsnetwork That’s unfortunate… wait…. am I seeing things or does this article contain a spectral chihuahua? #riveraletters

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@ololiuhqui oh no, it’s contagious! you’re seeing them too! :D :D :D

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

Suspect ‘believed Ernesto de la Cruz urged her to burn house in the form of a spectral chihuahua’. … starting on the insanity defence early, I see. #riveraletters

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

@marimba_maria That’s really unclear. Was it Ernesto or the house that was disguised as a spectral chihuahua?

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

@marimba_maria @hafflepaff have I told you about my new band, Spectral Chihuahua?

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

@mexnewsnetwork I knew those yappy little bastards were up to something.

 

blop @blopez

wow it’s nice you’re all having so much fun mocking someone with a mental illness #riveraletters

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hyperburrito @blopez seems to be talking sense for once, but I suspect she’s doing it for malevolent reasons.

 

blop @blopez

@ololiuhqui HEY. i’m a GUY.

 


 

Ana @ana_conda

Guadalupe Ruiz, arsonist, ex @MuseoDLC employee, current chihuahua hallucinator = ‘G. Ruiz, Publicity Officer’ who wrote that disastrous first response? #riveraletters

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@ana_conda She was trying to destroy all their shoes so they couldn’t bribe any more researchers. Makes sense.

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@MuseoDLC Are you preparing a response? Who has to write it? Are you drawing straws? #riveraletters

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

@marimba_maria The curator, probably. Kick it upstairs until you run out of upstairs.

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@MuseoDLC Do you have anything to say about this? #riveraletters

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@MuseoDLC you didn’t suggest she set the riveras on fire did you #riveraletters

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hyperburrito I’d assume not explicitly.

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

@MuseoDLC @hyperburrito @ololiuhqui Sounds like a perfectly plausible conspiracy theory to me. #riveraletters

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

@crash_barracudas I don’t think someone can go from totally normal to attacking people and starting fires overnight. Didn’t anybody notice something?

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

@hafflepaff @crash_barracudas there was a picture on the news right? it was a bad picture but i recognise people i know even in bad pictures. did they report anything? #riveraletters

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

@mil_colores The news certainly hasn’t mentioned it…

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

@crash_barracudas @MuseoDLC Did they even send good wishes? Rude!

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@rhinosaur Silver medal for passive aggression.

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

@marimba_maria What do I have to do to get gold?

 


 

From the Museum of Ernesto de la Cruz

 

On recent incidents: a time for reflection.

Francisco de la Cavalleria, Curator

 

On the 23rd March this year, the results of investigation into the Rivera Letters were released, confirming them to be genuine. One of our employees, Miss Guadalupe Ruiz, posted an unapproved response which was judged inappropriate and disrespectful to the Rivera family. The response was removed, and an apology offered to the family privately through the offices of the magazine Oaxacan Heritage. Miss Ruiz was placed on unpaid leave while discussions were ongoing as to the appropriate measures moving forward.

We were shocked and astonished to be informed by the police that she had committed such dreadful and irrational crimes. There had been no sign of any previous mental vulnerability which could have led us to anticipate events of this magnitude. It is a great relief that the consequences were not worse.

We are doing everything in our power to assist the police, and have now received clearance to comment on the matter. We hope that the investigation will proceed well and that Miss Ruiz will receive the psychiatric help she clearly needs, but most of all that the Rivera family will recover well from this grievous assault.

As a sign of goodwill and in the hopes that it will bring the family some joy, it has been decided to return ownership of the gold-toothed guitar to the Rivera family. The evidence of the Rivera family photograph and the Sepulveda Sketch suggests that it was initially the possession of Héctor Rivera, but subsequently taken by Ernesto as a memento of his friend. For the past seventy years it has rested in Ernesto’s tomb in Santa Cecilia, but we now believe that it ought to be in the possession of the Rivera family, as the rising generation endeavours to follow in their great-great-grandfather’s footsteps.

 


 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@crash_barracudas Ding ding ding! You were right, this is a job for Curator Man.

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@MuseoDLC ‘as a memento of his friend’ is an interesting way to spell ‘hey, free guitar’.

 

Ana @ana_conda

@marimba_maria And the wedding ring, too! So many treasured mementoes. Does the budget book have any income listed from a pawn shop?

 

Ana @ana_conda

@MuseoDLC ‘Sorry for setting your house on fire! As an apology have your own guitar back’ #riveraletters

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

@MuseoDLC was ruiz the only publicist you had? why’d it take you so long to say anything? #riveraletters

 

Manuel @quetzalchorizo

@mil_colores read the article, it says they waited for police approval before talking. what's wrong with that?

 


 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

I’m glad the family will have the guitar now. Bad move for @MuseoDLC though – they need good publicity but now they’ve established the Riveras should have Héctor’s possessions. I.E., the Songbook. #riveraletters

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@ololiuhqui Good point! @jacosta Tell the family they need to hold out for the Songbook.

 

Oaxacan Heritage @HerenciaOaxaquena

The Rivera family have thanked @MuseoDLC for their good wishes and are honoured to take responsibility for the gold-toothed guitar. They will do their best to look after it as carefully as the Museum has done.

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@jacosta Or you could be diplomatic, whatever.

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

I want to see Miguel playing Héctor’s guitar :D #riveraletters

 


 

Oaxacan Heritage @HerenciaOaxaquena

The Rivera family are going to have the body of Héctor Rivera forensically examined. Full article in this month’s issue! #riveraletters

 

The next step: forensic anthropological analysis of Héctor Rivera’s remains / Josefina Acosta, June 9th, 2018.

 

The Rivera family have decided to submit the remains believed to belong to Héctor Rivera, along with certain artefacts found with it, for forensic analysis. This hasn’t been an easy decision, as Abuelita Elena explains.

“Send him away? We just found him!” She throws her hands up in an exasperated gesture that nearly knocks over her champurrado. “And it wasn’t easy, either. That morning last week? The house is in flames, my daughter’s in Tamaulipas with a hole in her head, a maniac in a van flattened my grandson-”

“Bruised him,” Miguel interjects.

“-and then when we finally put out the fire and catch up with the pirómana , we open the van and there’s nothing there!”

“We thought he would be in a coffin. Coffin-sized. But the van was practically empty,” says Miguel.

“So we say, that witch, she’s thrown him in a river! Rosa, though, my granddaughter—my older granddaughter, Berto’s little girl— she points and says ‘that’s not one of our boxes!’”

Miguel grins. “Then she opened the box, and-” He throws his hands up, pulls a disgusted face and puts on a high-pitched voice. “‘Oh gross, it’s a skull! I’m not touching it!”

“You weren’t so bold yourself, Miguelito!” Abuelita Elena leans over the table conspiratorially. “We showed him the skull and he went paper white. He said “Yes, that’s Héctor” and ran away into the house!”

“Abuelita!” Miguel protests. “You didn’t have to-” He drags both hands down over his face. “Well, it was a shock to see him. He looked so… dead.”

“Skulls are disturbing. It’s not natural to see that many of someone else’s teeth,” I agree. Miguel mumbles something about the lack of eyes. “So you were sure it was him on first sight?”

“Well, I spent a lot of time looking at the photograph,” Miguel says. “And he had the same gold tooth. The one Mama Coco told me about, I mean.” He pushes up his upper lip and indicates his right upper central incisor or, for non-dentists, the right of his two front teeth.

“That would be a huge coincidence, if it wasn’t him. So you were surprised by the condition of the remains?”

“Well, we aren’t dim. It’s been nearly a hundred years! We knew it was going to be a skeleton,” says Abuelita Elena. “But he was in such a small box!” She sketches the container with her hands; maybe three feet long, eighteen inches wide and a foot deep and, as I see later, caving in at the top and bursting at the corners from the weight of earth. Miguel might have been able to squeeze himself inside, if he curled up very tight and was careful not to inhale. “He was just a jumble of bones when we opened it up!”

“If we shook the box we could’ve played him like a maraca,” Miguel puts in.

“So you tried to reassemble the body yourselves?”

Abuelita Elena looks at me oddly. “Of course. You were there. You made us all put those gloves on. Don’t you remember?”

“I’m pretending I don’t know so you’ll explain it to me. It’s an interview thing,” I explain.

Abuelita Elena screws up her face, shakes her head and humours me. “Yes. We put on the gloves you didn’t give us and laid him out on a table in the workroom. We put newspaper down first, of course. Then we tried to put him back together with all the pieces in the right place.”

“It was worse than a jigsaw,” Miguel says.

“And we couldn’t use that table the whole time he was lying on it, so getting orders out on time—tchuh! Forget it,” says Abuelita Elena.

“But you were absolutely sure you’d prefer to handle it yourself?”

“Of course! I buried my mama, she buried her mama. We can see to our own dead,” says Abuelita Elena. “What if we sent him off and he sat in a drawer for months? What would my mama say about that? Those envelopes, though, we didn’t mind giving those to you to give to your document friends.”

Two sealed envelopes were found among the bones, having possibly once been inside Héctor’s jacket. One was so badly damaged as to be illegible, and we don’t hold out great hopes that it’ll be deciphered. The other, though, was in a more resistant wax-paper envelope and seemed to have held out a little better, at least to the point where I wasn’t utterly petrified of touching it. Oaxacan Heritage took on the task of having the documents extracted.

“Rosa fetched her encyclopedia, because it has a big diagram of a skeleton in it. We got off to a strong start-”

“Skull goes at the top. Easy!”

“Then the spine-” Abuelita Elena draws a line going downwards in the air and adds a circle which gracefully alludes to the existence of the pelvis without being so crass as to mention it. “That was when you suggested we measure the femurs. So we did, once we worked out which ones they were.”

You can’t generally get a good estimate of a skeletonised person’s height in life just by laying out the bones and measuring from coronal suture to talus; even if you’re lucky enough to have a complete skeleton, a living person has all kinds of cartilage and fluid tucked between those bones, so they can’t simply be slotted back together. Particularly not by people who can’t identify the talus (it’s the one in your heel.) It is possible to calculate a close estimate from the size of individual bones, though, and the long bones in the arms and legs are most reliable.

We also have a good estimate for the height of Héctor Rivera. Mama Coco remembered him as tall and gangly; the family agreed that wasn’t a particularly reliable description, since she was three at the time, but actually she was very close. Conveniently, in the sole photo remaining of Héctor Rivera, he’s standing bolt upright next to a known and measurable artefact. Comparing the height of the gold-toothed guitar in the photograph to the height of the man holding it produces an estimate of five foot six, making Héctor the same height as Ernesto and taller than average even today.

As it turns out, every adult Rivera carries a tape measure on them at all times. It didn’t take long to measure a probable humurus, the bone running from shoulder to elbow, and both femurs, the bones running from hip to knee. The equation for a femur for a male of European descent, incidentally, is 2.32 x [femur length in centimetres] + 65.53 cm; for a male of Asian descent, a category which includes indigenous Americans, it’s 2.15 x [femur length in centimetres] + 72.57. Give or take an inch. As most Mexicans are of mixed European and indigenous descent, and because the young people seem actually interested in a maths problem, we try both. Measurements for the right femur and the we-think-it's-a-humurus produced estimates within an inch of five foot six for both equations. The left femur, unfortunately, appeared to belong to someone around four foot nine.

“And Mama Coco never mentioned her papa being… lopsided?”

“We knew they were wrong before we measured! We all saw it. You saw it. I bet that was why you said we should measure them,” Abuelita Elena says. “It obviously didn’t match. It was tiny. Miguel has bigger femurs than that!”

Miguel looks down briefly at his femurs.

“He’s a growing boy, I make sure he eats well,” Abuelita Elena says, and shakes her head. “Perezoso—they pull him out of the ground, throw him back in, jumble him up, shake him around like a maraca and give him someone else’s leg—and they didn’t even know he was only a stupid mariachi! It’s disrespectful. We would never, never treat the bones of anybody else’s relative like that!”

“Where’s his real leg, anyway? Did a dog run off with it?”

“They left his leg out for a dog to run off with!” Abuelita Elena agrees wrathfully. She looks as if she might drive up to Tamaulipas and start banging heads together.

“Aaaanyway. Mama Imelda would be furious if we put any part of a stranger in her grave,” Miguel says. “So we have to make sure we’re only burying the right bones.” He spreads his hands out wide. “And the scientists can tell us so, right?”

I’m no expert on forensic anthropology, and the Riveras really tested my knowledge to the limit while they were making up their minds. I know the most impressive tricks; in 2000 Manzanilla, Middleton and Prince analysed the strontium in the enamel of teeth found at Teotihuacan, shed before 650 BC, to track which geographic area the owners lived in as children and thereby map immigration to the city. In 2014, Gamba et al. proved that the petrous bone (inside your skull, by your inner ear canal) is a goldmine for DNA even in millennial-old remains; earlier this years petrous bones supplied a team from the University of Oxford with the oldest extracted DNA from Africa, dating back fifteen thousand years. Though DNA analysis takes somewhat longer in real life than on TV, matching DNA between a mere century-old body and his direct descendants ought to be a cakewalk.

The younger Riveras all looked fascinated—Rosa asked if I had articles she could borrow—but it seemed in my enthusiasm I’d accidentally given the older generation the impression that their great-grandfather was going to be put through a blender. Hurried backpedaling ensued.

In this case, analysis really shouldn’t require anything more complicated than a magnifying glass. We know Héctor Rivera was twenty-one when he died. The head of the femur, for example, generally fuses between fifteen and twenty, with the usual disclaimer of ‘give or take a year’ because it would be a dull world if we were all alike. The right femur, the one consistent with Héctor’s height, still has a slight visible crease which Abuelita Elena says reminds her of folded dough. The left one, apparently belonging to a shorter individual, is fully-fused, which suggests our mystery leg donor was somewhat older. This is all very amateur analysis, though, and a trained individual who could not only identify the sphenooccipital synchrondrosis but also spell it would doubtless do a much better job. If most of the bones show the characteristics you’d expect in the skeleton of a 21-year-old male, five foot six, we can be fairly confident they belong to the one we have in mind.

“ And,” Miguel says, eyeing Abuelita Elena carefully, “the scientists can put him back together right, can’t they?”

“We put him back together just fine! He looked that funny when we started,” Abuelita Elena argues.

“What about all of the little bones? They all looked the same. What if he has half a foot and half a hand? How would he play the guitar?”

Abuelita Elena waves a hand dismissively. “If they weren’t all the same they wouldn’t look all the same.”

“Well,” I point out, “the analysts would certainly be able to settle this debate.”

The debate over whether Héctor’s hands have been correctly reassembled isn’t, of course, the question of primary interest to most readers. The Rivera family hope analysis will prove firstly that they’re burying the right bones, and secondly that they’re in the correct configuration. Whether it can prove the cause of Héctor’s death is another matter entirely.

Over the last six months many people have suggested poison by arsenic, as this provides the closest imitation of food poisoning. Poisoning by metallic elements such as arsenic, lead or mercury is certainly detectable in bones long after death, and with the assent of the family, Oaxacan Heritage has requested that a test be carried out. At the risk of being a massive buzzkill, however: it would be highly interesting if arsenic was found, but this would still not be proof of murder. Murder would require that the arsenic be proved to have been deliberately administered by another person, Ernesto or otherwise, for homicidal purposes. Arsenic was a common ingredient in patent medicines of the time. If Héctor had genuinely developed food poisoning, he could plausibly have resorted to a preparation containing arsenic, whether in ignorance of the danger or even in a deliberate but misguided attempt to induce vomiting. Similarly, absence of arsenic would not prove absence of a crime, as there are any number of methods of ending another person’s life which cannot be detected from the other side of a century. Simply put, there is only a slim chance that the body will provide conclusive evidence either way.

What evidence is found will, of course, be presented in the next issue of Oaxacan Heritage after its release.

 


 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@jacosta You’re right, you do sound like a buzzkill. #riveraletters #definitelymurder

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

@marimba_maria Sounds smart to me. Whatever the analysis says they can still debate the murder question for another fifty issues (and I will buy them all). #riveraletters

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@HerenciaOaxaquena I can’t believe they lost his leg! I don’t want to be buried in temaulipas. #riveraletters

 


 

Luisa @hyperburrito

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8i6AvjE-HA acoustic version of Remember Me. I really like this one, it’s so emotional #riveraletters

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

@hyperburrito It’s really well-played, but I’m not sure how I feel about people doing lullaby versions of Remember Me :/

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@hafflepaff … sorry, I don’t get it? do you mean because it’s too sad?

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

@hyperburrito ‘There are all the songs in the world for everybody else. Coco can keep this one for herself.’ And he already got probably murdered so someone else could play it.

 

blop @blopez

@hafflepaff hey coco’s dead

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

@blopez @hafflepaff What?! Spoiler that shit!

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@blopez Are you still here?

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@hafflepaff I’m not saying people should steal songs, but it is already out there and I think people should know Coco’s version better than Ernesto’s

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hyperburrito @hafflepaff I think we can reach a compromise. How about it’s okay so long as you’re crying into your guitar?

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

@ololiuhqui @hyperburrito Okay, I can get behind that :)

 


 

Josefina Acosta retweeted:

Oaxacan Heritage @HerenciaOaxaquena

We’re pleased to confirm that a report on the examination of the body and the documents found with it has been completed and will appear in a special brief issue of Oaxacan Heritage. #riveraletters

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@HerenciaOaxaquena uuuuggghh. like, i could get chocolate or lipstick but instead i spend my allowance on postage #riveraletters

 


 

 The truth at last? : the examination of the body / Josefina Acosta, July 21st 2018.

 

It has been around six weeks since the body believed to belong to Héctor Rivera was entrusted to a forensics lab in Washington D.C. and the documents found with it sent to IEV Labs in New Mexico, which carried out the initial analysis of the Letters themselves.

The remains have been confirmed as belonging, for the most part, to a male of approximately five foot six who died between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three. Fine horizontal grooves on the remaining front incisor suggest a period of malnutrition as a child. This is consistent with what is known of the life of Héctor Rivera, ‘penniless orphan musician’, and the laboratory felt they could say with reasonable certainty that the body belonged to the person we thought it did. The Rivera family and all of us at Oaxacan Heritage are very grateful to all the staff at the laboratory for their hard work. It is unfortunate that their information arrived shortly after IEV Labs contacted us with their results from opening the first envelope, and therefore was not immediately greeted with the delight which it deserved.

This is because the better-preserved of the two envelopes was found to contain unofficial identity papers made out to Héctor Rivera, in two parts:

1) a photograph of his face, with a faded statement on the back attesting that the man in the photograph is Héctor Rivera of Santa Cecilia. The attestation appears to have been made by the priest who baptised Coco.

2) a document signed and stamped by an Oaxaqueno government clerk giving his name, date of birth, address and employment. To Abuelita Elena’s satisfaction, he is recorded as ‘not gainfully employed’. It is noted that he means to travel away from Oaxaca over the summer of 1921.

Héctor and Ernesto were travelling in the aftermath of the Revolution, when tensions were still running high; bringing evidence that they were strangers to any given area and couldn’t have been involved in any given atrocity seems like a prudent decision. Since the envelope was still sealed, it also seems that they were fortunate enough not to need them.

As it’s very unlikely that anybody else would be carrying Héctor Rivera’s papers, the family is confident in saying that these are their great-great-grandfather’s remains—for the most part—and can be safely interred in Mama Imelda’s grave without serious risk of her displeasure.

‘For the most part’ because, as a very amateur inspection suggested, the left femur is not original to the body. It appears to have belonged to a person of around four foot ten who suffered from osteoporosis; they are very likely to have been over fifty years of age and somewhat more likely to have been female. If you are looking for remains of a person disinterred from San Antonio de Padua in the 1950s who you think may match this description, please don’t hesitate to contact our offices.

The left tibia and fibula, the bones of the lower leg, were judged more consistent with a person of Héctor’s height and age, and are believed to be original. Marks on the left tibia are likely to have been left by a canine, which may explain the disappearance of the original femur. The Rivera family were not pleased to hear this and made highly derogatory comments about the work ethic of the men employed to disinter him.

Some more interesting facts which cannot be confirmed from Héctor’s known history were uncovered by the osteologist’s analysis. From the attachment points of muscles on his arms, he seems to have been right-handed, and at some point suffered a fracture to his left radius, a bone in the lower arm, which healed well. The gold tooth is a cap over the original broken incisor. When I suggest to the family that it might have been an accident, they cackle and bet me large sums of money that someone punched him in the face. As far as they’re concerned, the only question is whether it was Mama Imelda’s papa or Mama Imelda herself.

In other respects, however, I am sorry to report that nothing of interest was discovered. The bones did not test positive for undue amounts of any metallic poison. The hyoid bone (above the vocal cords), which is fractured in fifty percent of stranglings, was undamaged. There were no fractures or marks on the bones to suggest a violent attack. Based on the remains, the laboratory was not able to provide a cause of death. All the evidence is inconclusive. This will be disappointing to some and gratifying to others.

The second letter found with the remains was also examined, though more briefly than the Letters were. Despite best efforts the letter, which appears to be in Héctor’s handwriting, remains only partially legible. A transcription is given below, along with a scan of the letter itself.

Confident reconstructions are marked [thusly], while probable reconstructions are marked [like this?].

 

* *

--- [July 1921]

–------------------------- [dar]ling Imelda,

–------------------------- [L]a Llorona toda[y] –------------------------------ [of c?]ourse I did,

–--------[think?] of you. You and Coco and mu[sic] –--------------------------------- well as

[you?] do, but she saw me smiling [and?] –--------------------------------- [have the?] heart

to say I’d been thinking of a diff[erent] –----------------------------- her feelings, and my face.

Something good –--------------------- [Er]nesto is very excited. I don’t want to write about it

in –------------------------------------------------------- not to have you here [in front?] of me.

–------- [to] see Ernesto so happy and not to be happy myself. I’m pleased, I supp[ose but?]

not giddy like –---------------------------------- [might] mean longer on the road and I don’t

–--------------------- any more. Even perf{orming] ------------- doesn’t matter how many

–-------------- -ing when none of them are you. Even one more

 

[I’m] coming home. Pl[ease] [don’t?] –----------- in my face when –----------------- [Erne]sto

–------ furious but he’ll live –-------- enough to make it by him[self] –----- doesn’t want to.

 

By train –---------- [Ciudad] Victoria to Tampico to San Luis [Potosi to Mexico?] City to

Oaxaca, and then I hope ----------------- no feet when you see me. If ----------------

–-------------------------------------- feel sorry for me and let [me] --------------------------

[mi am?]or? I’ll post –-------------------------- [ex]pect it’ll beat me --------------------

–---------------------------- in a box –------------ [agile?] and send my[self] ---------------

[I] love you bo[th]. I’ll –------ soon.

 

[You]rs always, Héctor

 

* *

This letter would seem to imply that Héctor had decided to return to Santa Cecilia shortly before his death.

“Seems to imply?” Abuelita Elena repeats incredulously. “It's written right there! He finally came to his senses and realised he should be at home with his family, so that-” Since there are young people in the room, she sputters for a moment before concluding wrathfully “-that bad man killed him!”

“It was cruel to say that Héctor had run off when Ernesto knew he meant to come home,” Burto says, shaking his head.

“He must have been angry that Héctor decided to leave,” Gloria says slowly, “but when you’re angry at someone, if they suddenly died… wouldn’t most people regret being angry?”

Before this, I had the impression that it was only Miguel who was die-hard convinced Héctor was murdered, but the rest of the family are now clearly coming around to his opinion. Miguel doesn’t seem satisfied, though. He’s staring at the scan of the letter, with his chin in his hand and his lower lip sticking out.

“What do you think, Miguel?”

Miguel blows out a long sigh. “They could’ve been really happy, couldn’t they?”

“If Héctor had made it home, you mean?”

“Yeah. And Ernesto never even felt sorry about it.”

Whether Ernesto felt sorry or not—however much he had to feel sorry for—so far there’s no evidence he tried to make amends. This is the difficult thing about history: at some point, the evidence just runs out. It’s likely that we will never know what happened on the day Héctor Rivera died. The letter almost certainly dates from between the 26th, when he wrote the last letter Imelda received, and his death on the 29th, but how long before is difficult to tell.

These two documents will not be reinterred with the body, as despite their poor condition it’s probable that further study may be requested. The family do intend to bury Héctor with a lock of Coco Rivera’s hair.

 


 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

‘I love you both. I’ll see you soon.’ Oh, honey. No you won’t. #riveraletters

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@HerenciaOaxaquena no evidence? that’s so disappointing! #riveraletters

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hyperburrito Put down the phone and finish reading the article.

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@ololiuhqui OH MY GOOOOOODDDDD

 


 

 

blop @blopez

 @HerenciaOaxaquena so why didn't you have these letters verified like the last ones, huh?

 


 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

So he was leaving. What are the chances HR died of food poisoning right when he was leaving? After saying Ernesto would be angry about it? #riveraletters

 

Ana @ana_conda

@crash_barracudas ‘Ernesto will be furious but he’ll live', unlike me #riveraletters

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@crash_barracudas Chances : infinitesimal.

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@crash_barracudas Or at least incredibly unlikely.

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

@marimba_maria Maybe more likely than on another night. Maybe E decided to give H a proper send-off? Get drunk, go to the seedy taco shop… sounds like he was in a rush to leave, though.

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

@hafflepaff I think Ernesto decided to give him a proper send-off all right.

 


 

 RAWR @rhinosaur

Motive: he was taking the songbook in the divorce. Means: that nsct psn? Opportunity: they bought each other’s food. #riveraletters

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

Everything I know about detectiving I learned from TV but we got an open and shut case here, boys. #riveraletters

 


 

 Luisa @hyperburrito

‘i love you both. i’ll be home soon’ D: D: D: #riveraletters #uglycrying

 


 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

could it have been an accident? maybe Ernesto tried to make him too sick to travel and overdid it #riveraletters

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@mil_colores Good idea! That’s definitely possible.

 


 

 Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

Obvious murder aside, I can’t believe Héctor was buried with his identity papers. What a helpful dead guy. #riveraletters

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

@hafflepaff Yeah, and can we also talk about the dog? I think the xolo didn’t like the song and took his leg as revenge.

 


 

From the Museum of Ernesto de la Cruz

 

Suspicion and scandal: the other side of de la Cruz

Miranda Collazo, Publicity Officer

 

For the seventy years since his untimely death Ernesto de la Cruz has been a standout figure in Mexican culture. His talent as a performer alone would have justified his stardom, but his charm, his generosity and his indefatigable energy made him more than that; they made him beloved. They made him an idol. It has been distressing for many, in recent months, to discover that the idol had feet of clay.

There had been rumours about de la Cruz. He was briefly under suspicion after the talented young actor Marcus Garrido (star of El Hombre Lobo in 1932 and El Templo del Sol in 1933) was found drowned in de la Cruz’s guitar-shaped pool after a party. He was also suspected of involvement in an assault on a rival chihuahua breeder and in an attempted kidnapping of another musician.

It was easy, however, to say that there had always been rumours about anyone who put themselves in the spotlight, and stack against all the allegations all the proofs of de la Cruz’s good character. His kindness to young fans, his courtesy to the old. His unceasing encouragement of younger musicians. His well-known, well-publicised charitable patronage.

The new evidence of the Rivera Letters, proving that de la Cruz stole many of his most famous songs and concealed the death of the real composer, therefore came as a harsh awakening. It has been a difficult period of reflection for all of us here at the Museum, as it has been for fans across Mexico, and it is with real sadness that we have concluded de la Cruz was not the paragon we believed him to be. For the seventy years since de la Cruz’s death, a false image has stood in place of the real man, and the Museum now embarks on the long, arduous process of uncovering the real, unvarnished Ernesto de la Cruz.

The first stage must, therefore, be a re-examination of some of the scandals that marred de la Cruz’s career. It is owed to anyone who may have been hurt that the allegations be re-assessed by scholars unblinkered by de la Cruz’s towering reputation. We mean to begin with a re-examination of Marcus Garrido’s tragic early death, in close and respectful partnership with the Garrido family, which shall be centred around an exhibit launching in the spring of 2019.

 


 

RAWR @rhinosaur

@MuseoDLC Cool, you got a new publicist! … you searched her for matches, right? #RiveraVan

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

@MuseoDLC It’s good you’re looking into these things :)

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@hafflepaff Sounds more to me like they’re making murder their new selling point and pretending it’s a public service.

 

Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

@marimba_maria Cynic.

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

@marimba_maria logically its not like they can just fire everybody and shut down the whole museum. at least they’re not just denying everything anymore.

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

@mil_colores @marimba_maria @museoDLC I’m waiting to see how respectful the Garrido exhibit actually is.

 


 

 Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

El Camino a Casa. An aspiring musician tries to break up with his patron and go home, patron tries to poison him. Discuss. #riveraletters

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@crash_barracudas They do say to write what you know…

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

@crash_barracudas ernesto is the hero in that film, though? the victim. that’d be so creepy if he poisoned Héctor in real life.

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

@mil_colores @crash_barracudas ‘Actually if you think about it HE poisoned ME.’

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

@mil_colores @crash_barracudas ‘This calls for a toast to our friendship! … you drink first.’

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

@rhinosaur Well, the film probably isn't an exact reenactment.

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@mil_colores @crash_barracudas @rhinosaur This might interest you: https://conservatorio.inba.gob.mx/facultad/blogs/montreal #riveraletters

 


 

Just a few thoughts: El Camino a Casa as wish fulfilment?

Posted on 30/7/2018 by Prof a . Juana Montreal, Conservatorio Nacional de Música

 

I don’t know if the conclusion of the Rivera case rang any bells for anybody else, but as a total Ernesto film junkie, it did for me! Recall the first film Ernesto received a screenwriter’s credit for, El Camino a Casa (1929). Our hero is handsome musician Diego Medina, who is supported and encouraged by his patron Don Hidalgo. They get along just swimmingly until Diego, spurred by a gauzy vision of his wife and child at a glamorous party, decides to return to his idyllically pastoral life at home. After a short argument, Don Hidalgo supports him, reaffirms their friendship and then--for reasons often questioned by critics—tries to poison him to death. Diego Medina somehow recognises the taste, punches Don Hidalgo out and escapes on horseback to his family’s home, pursued by the wrathful Don Hidalgo and his hired mercenaries. After one of the most thrilling horseback chases to ever feature in Mexican cinema, Don Hidalgo is slain and Diego reunites with his wife and gender-never-specified child. Neither seem very upset by the dead mercenaries littered around their charming villa, but I expect that came up after the credits rolled.

Now, Héctor Rivera, the man who supplied the songs that Ernesto made famous, was recently discovered to—well, first we discovered that he existed, and then that he died tragically young, at twenty-one, very shortly after deciding to leave off travelling with Ernesto and go home to his family. We know from the report of a priest that Ernesto knew very well Rivera had died and was even planning to return his possessions to his family. At some point in the months after Rivera’s death, though, by the time the widow wrote to ask what had happened to her husband, Ernesto had changed his plan. He wrote back and told her that her husband had broken off all contact and gone to chase stardom alone.

I can only guess why. Perhaps Ernesto was afraid that if the widow knew the truth she would stop him from using the music he’d come to rely on. That sounds a likely enough fear to me, considering the woman later banned her entire family from ever so much as humming. What I suspect, though, is that it was a form of denial. Alone and struggling, Ernesto couldn’t accept Rivera’s death, less of all put it in writing. He constructed an alternative history, where Rivera had lived but simply abandoned him and, by necessity, his own family. Telling this alternative history to the widow and daughter, was a terribly selfish decision, of course, presumably motivated by severe distress.

Now it seems obvious that Diego Medina is fairly closely modelled on Héctor Rivera. (A prominent figure of the time was Diego Rivera (1886-1957), artist and husband of Frida Kahlo, but that may be just a happy coincidence.) Don Hidalgo, on the other hand, represents nothing so prosaic as a person. He’s the figure who gives Diego his first guitar and steers him through his prosperous career as a musician, only to lash out when he tries to leave. Don Hidalgo is Fate, or God, or perhaps even Music; he bestows talent on Diego and then tries to cut him down when he refuses to use it. While the lack of explanation for his decision to try to murder Diego has prompted a lot of guesses—subtextual homoerotic jealousy is the most dramatic—now I think that isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. There is no sense in Don Hidalgo’s attempted murder of Diego because Ernesto could find no sense in Rivera’s death.

I think this is Ernesto’s second attempt to rewrite history. The real culprit for Rivera’s untimely death is most likely to be a teary farewell booze-up, an error of judgement and alcohol poisoning. (Ernesto became a notably light drinker in later years.) Here, though, the fictionalised Rivera is threatened by nothing less than malevolent, capricious destiny, and Ernesto-as-writer anthropomorphises that destiny into a figure that Ernesto-as-actor can energetically punch in the face. The real Rivera died a long way from home; the fictionalised version, however, can be delivered safely into the bosom of his family. It’s a form of wish-fulfilment, and suggests that at this point Ernesto deeply regretted the lie he told Rivera’s widow, though he could never bring himself to confess the truth. In some way, at least—even if it was only on a film reel and under an assumed name—for Ernesto, Héctor Rivera lived happily ever after.

 


 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

@ololiuhqui that could be sweet if you assume it wasn't murder. and if you pretend he hadn't lied.

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@ololiuhqui How nice for Ernesto! I think he knew he was the bad guy and he didn’t like it. #riveraletters

 


 

 Isabela Longbottom @hafflepaff

In the light of new evidence, let’s redo the poll! Tell me what you think. Héctor Rivera: murdered or not? #riveraletters

 

Luisa @hyperburrito

@hafflepaff I think Ernesto must have killed him :(

 

Francisca @ololiuhqui

@hafflepaff I have to say murder. Probably on impulse, possibly by accident, but Ernesto made it happen.

 

Ana @ana_conda

@hafflepaff It was murder and he got away with it. Asshole.

 

Nico Vera @crash_barracudas

@hafflepaff I vote for murder.

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

@crash_barracudas We all do, querido, it’s called politics.

 

RAWR @rhinosaur

@hafflepaff Ernesto murdered Héctor, in the bathroom, with the lead pipe.

 

las sombras tienen @mil_colores

@hafflepaff Probably murder. :\

 

Manuel @quetzalchorizo

@hafflepaff ernesto never murdered anyone. people get food poisoning all the time.

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@hafflepaff Accidental death falling down a flight of stairs. … Nah, murder.

 

Maria from Acapulco @marimba_maria

@hafflepaff @blopez Blop, do you have an opinion?

 

blop @blopez

@marimba_maria fuck you

 

blop @blopez

@hafflepaff he ate your mom’s cooking. #dlcporsiempre until the day i die

 

__

 

AIRED OCT 31 2018

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

 

[PRESENTERS DIEGO AND MARISOL IN FRONT OF LARGE OFRENDA]

 

DIEGO: Hello and welcome to our special Dia de los Muertos Notas Musicales!

 

[THEME MUSIC]

 

DIEGO: Can I just say, Marisol, you look remarkable. I almost thought we were being visited by Santa Muerta herself!

 

MARISOL: Oh, no, Diego! There won’t be any saints coming for you.

 

DIEGO: Ha ha! But really, how long did that take?

 

MARISOL: Oh… two hours?

 

DIEGO: Really? And you sat still the whole time? Tell the truth, Marisol: did she hit you on the head with a mallet?

 

MARISOL: [to studio audience] He’s so cruel to me! I think this is a good day to dress up, because this is our most special episode of the year, when we commemorate all the wonderful stars who are, sadly, making their first appearance on the Notas Musicales ofrenda. And we’ve got one very special case this year, haven’t we, Diego?

 

DIEGO: Yes, we do. We pride ourselves on never missing a star. Your first Dia de los Muertos in the land of the dead is your first Dia de los Muertos on our ofrenda, that’s our guarantee! But it turns out we did miss somebody.

 

MARISOL: It’s not really our fault, though. We couldn’t have put him up the first year after he passed away, because the ofrenda hadn’t been built-

 

DIEGO: -because the show wasn’t airing-

 

MARISOL: -because television hadn’t been invented yet!

 

DIEGO: Yes, you’re all correct, it’s songwriter Héctor Rivera. This is a long, long overdue appearance—nearly a hundred years!--and in accordance with the rules-

 

MARISOL: First out, first on!

 

DIEGO: -Héctor Rivera is our first musician to remember. Normally we’d take a look back at his best-ever performance, and how much we would love to show you that. But, sadly, we can’t.

 

MARISOL: … we do have the next best thing, though.

 

DIEGO: Yes we do, Marisol! So, in honour of Héctor Rivera, ladies and gentlemen, straight from Santa Cecilia, giving us his great-great-grandfather’s greatest song on his great-great-grandfather’s very own guitar: I am delighted to introduce Miguel Rivera, playing Coco’s Lullaby.

 

[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]

 


 

Josefina Acosta @jacosta

Every year since 1956, my grandfather has put a picture of Ernesto de la Cruz on his ofrenda. This year, he’s put up a picture of somebody else. #diadelosmuertos #riveraletters