Digital Altars and Migrant Death in Mexico (with Xiomara Cervantes-Gómez)

In this week’s episode, guest Xiomara Cervantes-Gómez discusses her article “Where Blackness Dies: The Aesthetics of a Massacre and the Violence of Remembering,” which analyzes the digital altar created to commemorate the lives of 72 Central American migrants massacred in Mexico in 2010. Cervantes-Gómez builds on this analysis to interrogate the sensationalist depictions of migrant death, the affordances and limitations of digital media for attending to the divine, and, ultimately, the politics of blackness in the context of Mexico and the American continent.

“I had to rethink what an altar meant and what it did signify. In Latin American and in Mexican theological practices, the materiality of the altar is filled with the divine. What does that mean when we put it on a digital platform? What is digital material? And who has access to this? It assumes a certain class level. Do the families of these victims even have internet or a computer to access this digital altar that is commemorating their loved ones?”

Episode Transcript (opens as PDF)

Show Notes

05:45 a report on the 2010 Tamaulipas Massacre

06:30 a brief history of Los Zetas

10:00 Gore Capitalism by Sayak Valencia

13:20 Trafficking by Hector Amaya

14:30 about the 72 Migrantes project

25:00 a brief introduction to mestizaje

32:00Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book” by Hortense Spillers

34:30 In the Wake by Christina Sharpe

40:45 about the militarization of the Mexican southern border

About the Guest

Xiomara Verenice Cervantes-Gómez is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. As a transdisciplinary queer and performance theorist, she researches and writes at the interstice between Latin American and US Latinx cultural studies, continental philosophy, performance studies, queer theory and contemporary literature. Dr. Cervantes-Gómez received her PhD in Spanish and Latin American Studies at the University of Southern California. She also holds a Master’s in Theological Studies in Religions of the Americas from Harvard Divinity School and a BA from the University of California, Riverside. She currently serves on the editorial board of Women and Language and has recently served as co-chair of the Latin American Studies Association’s Sexuality Section.