115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Invisible Detective in 1970s Mexico: Discourse in Two Novels by Jorge Ibarguengoitia

Charles Boyer, Hawaii Pacific University

This paper will examine the discursive and representational strategies in two 1970s detective novels in Mexico in relation to the repressive national environment during the decade following the 1968 government crackdown at Tlatelolco in Mexico City.


The 1968 student uprising in Mexico can be seen as a struggle between the masses that wished to be heard and seen and a State whose actions were meant to silence and erase any dissent. This struggle over voice and visibility not only occurs within civil society during and after the government crackdown at Tlatelolco in Mexico City. It also can be seen in discursive forms of this period. The detective novel in itself is a narrative form that attempts to shed light - or make visible - something (typically a crime of some sort) that is disruptive to society. This process appears in different ways in the two detective novels written by Jorge Ibarguengoitia during the 1970s: Las muertas and Dos crimenes.

Although these two novels are very different in form and story, they are both concerned with issues of visibility and invisibility. For example, Las muertas takes through the elaborate investigation into the real-life news story of "Las Poquianchis," a family of women who ran a brothel in rural Mexico that abused and eventually killed several prostitutes to protect the family's interests. The narrative itself gives voice to the investigative process of interviewing and recording the various stories and perspectives that together give shape to the sordid events. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this crime investigation is the lack of an investigating agent within the narrative. This detail of making invisible the investigator places the reader in its role.

Dos crimenes, in contrast, hides the visibility of the investigator in a different way. By making him one of the characters involved and implicated in one of the crimes, the detective become both suspect and examiner of the evidence. Furthermore, the narrative conceals the identity of the detective - Making him invisible to the reader - until the story's halfway point.

These two different strategies of representation have different effects on the reader's experience and position with regard to the investigative process. They reveal discursive styles that encourage an active role by the reader to fill in for the invisible investigators. At the same time these texts enter a conversation in the discursive processes of silencing and erasing that take shape in the repressive decade after 1968 in Mexico.