Gabriel Figueroa 1907-1997


Gabriel Figueroa was Esperanza Lopez Mateos' best friend. He is a renowned Mexican cinematographer, he made over 200 films, nominated for an Oscar, won Cannes, Golden Globe, Ariel multiple times, worked with top films and directors.

He left two books where he talks about how important Esperanza was in his life. They were cousins and lived in the same house with his brother, her husband, Roberto.


Gabriel Figueroa, Memorias, 2005, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

This is not a complete review of the book, but just as it pertains to Esperanza's life and Figueroa's relationship with her.




Chap. 1


I believe this is saying that Figueroa's mother died in childbirth. That Roberto is the older one. That Aunt Lola convinced papa Figueroa to make a trip to Paris. That on his return he died, as also did Aunt Lola. Figueroa does not say how they died. Elsewhere Figueroa says his father was an engineer, and a millionaire.

My father lost my mother when I was born and an older brother three months later, he was devoted to drink. My brother Roberto and I were picked up by my aunt Lola, sister of my father who, before this situation, proposed to my dad to combine the goods, because she was married and had no children, and it convinced dad so that you outside of trip to Paris with two friends and there he spent two years. When he returned he died. Also the aunt Lola died. Mi padre, que había perdido a mi madre cuando yo nací y a un hermano mayor tres meses después, se dedicó a beber. Mi hermano Roberto y yo fuimos recogidos por mi tía Lola, hermana de mi padre, quien, ante esta situación, le propuso a mi papá mancomunar los bienes, pues ella era casada y no tenía hijos, y convenció a papá para que se fuera de viaje a París con dos amigos y allá se pasó como dos años. A su regresó murió. También la tía Lola murió.


His father's money was tied up in estate and property, but enough was available to send them to a fine school

Then Roberto and I left to live with my father's sister, my aunt Sara, a person to who I keep special affection for their generosity and their kindness.

...we went to the School John Charteris, in front of the monument to Columbus, one of the best schools in Mexico.

Entonces Roberto y yo nos fuimos a vivir con otra hermana de mi padre, mi tía Sara, una persona a quien guardo especial cariño por su generosidad y su bondad.

...íbamos a la Escuela John Charteris, frente al monumento a Colón, una de las mejores escuelas de México.


es.wikipedia - mariano (1900), elena (1901), another brother Rafael (1906), predictably does not venture a guess as to Esperanza's birth year, Adolfo (1910 es, 1909 en).

We played a lot with the cousins López Mateos. Their mom, my aunt Elena, was sister of the uncle Remigio Mateos. She was directress of an asylum, a person very prepared (well-schooled?), of great culture, good poet and very pretty; she never lost her smile. She was left a widow with four children: Mariano, Elena, Adolfo and Esperanza. Jugábamos mucho con los primos López Mateos. Su mamá, mi tía Elena, era hermana del tío Remigio Mateos. Era directora de un asilo, una persona muy preparada, de gran cultura, buena poetisa y muy guapa; jamás perdió la sonrisa. Se había quedado viuda con sus cuatro hijos: Mariano, Elena, Adolfo y Esperanza.


when aunt sara died, it was revealed the estate that was in the Figueroa's name had been mismanaged by the executor, and the Figueroa brothers had to withdraw from school and go to work. sometime later however, they came in to a small fortune due to a lost investment finding its way back to them.

Roberto ...was a great mathematician, excellent sportsman and very good chess player...;Mexican Telefónica had been intervened by the government of the Revolution and returned Bell System...His knowledge allowed him to ascend and to the about twelve year-old end of working there was already accountant of the company.
All the employees of Mexican Telefónica were entitled to a telephone and, like it is natural, their names appeared in the directories.

Roberto ...era un gran matemático, excelente deportista y muy buen jugador de Telefónica Mexicana había sido intervenida por el gobierno de la Revolución y devuelta a Bell System...Sus conocimientos le permitieronascender y al cabo de unos doce años de trabajar ahí ya era contador de la empresa.
Todos los empleados de la Telefónica Mexicana tenían derecho a un teléfono y, como es natural, sus nombres aparecían en los directorios.

p. 25

After Aunt Sara, it was the Lopez Mateos side of the family which gave the Figueroa boys the most support.

Of Figueroa it was not nobody, but of the Lopez Mateos, my mother's family, yes, and they had always seen with love each other and us to them.

De los Figueroa no quedaba nadie, pero de los Mateos, la familia de mi madre, sí, y siempre nos habían visto con Cariño y nosotros a ellos.

Henry had in his possession a Mexican phone book. The cover had been eaten by mice, I could not find its precise date of publication, but it must have been around 1940 or maybe a little before. It lists Roberto Figueroa Mateos, Esperanza's husband, at 1106 Coyoacan and with the phone number P-1885. That is the same address Esperanza would use from 1941 to 1951. The same address Gabriel Figueroa would use.


From Henry's pocket notebook in 1941, with his contact information for Esperanza. I don't know why the phone number is (F)-18-85, (instead of P as above) but I assume there is a reason. If Henry had known the year of her birth, I am sure he would have written it down. At the bottom looks like Esperanza's full climbing schedule for the year. Henry went up Popo with her on Dec 7, 1941


addendum - Henry wrote 7 with a line through it, an old style you dont see much nowadays. a glance at an old phone dial shows PRS and 7 were on the same hole.



Gabriel Figueroa, Memorias, 2005, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Chap. 5


Henry's version he told in 1990 and 1992 also said the mother was an Englishwoman. The mother died in birth after the father left for war, hence the Mateos family adopted Esperanza. Elena then gave Esperanza to an unnamed Spaniard with a sugar plantation in Oaxaca, when Elena's husband was killed. Eventually, when Esperanza was around 12, she and her mother were reunited, but Esperanza did not learn that she was adopted until her 16th birthday.

The Regina Santiago Nunez version (she is a granddaughter of Gonzalo Murga) holds that Esperanza was the natural daughter of Elena Mateos and don Gonzalo, born of a love affair, as was her brother, Adolfo. Murga's wife was a Belgian, born in Mexico, who left the country, and Murga, about 1906.

Its possible that whatever the truth is, Esperanza spent much of her life, if not all of it, not knowing the name of either of her parents, since even in Figueroa's version, there is an emphasis on secrecy.

Esperanza López Mateos was my fourth mother, the one that woke up in me the social conscience. Adopted by the family López Mateos, this is her history... Her father was don Gonzalo de Murga y Suinaga, marqués de Alcázar y vizconde de Mondragón. The marquis had been stolen(?) to his wife who was of the English nobility, and with her he had two children: Clara and Blue. Clara changed later into Esperanza, name that she acquired because my aunt Elena López Mateos had daughter with that name who had died. Don Gonzalo was a friend of the family and, on separating from his wife, she stayed with Blue, the son, and he, with Clara. When not knowing what to make with the girl, he asked my aunt Elena to adopt. My aunt accepted the native authority provided there was definitively no longer any family relationship, and putting as condition that don Gonzalo never gave a single cent for Esperanza. Esperanza López Mateos fue mi cuarta madre, la que despertó en mí la conciencia social. Adoptada por la familia López Mateos, ésta es su historia... Su padre era don Gonzalo de Murga y Suinaga, marqués de Alcázar y vizconde de Mondragón. El marqués se había robado a su mujer, quien era de la nobleza inglesa, y con ella tuvo dos hijos: Clara y Blue. Clara se convirtió más tarde en Esperanza, nombre que adquirió porque a mi tía Elena López Mateos se le había muerto una hija de ese nombre. Don Gonzalo era amigo de la familia y, al separarse de su mujer, ella se quedó con Blue, el hijo, y él, con Clara. Al no saber qué hacer con la niña, le rogó a mi tía Elena que la adoptase. Mi tía aceptó la patria potestad siempre y cuando definitivamente ya no hubiera ninguna relación familiar, y poniendo como condición que don Gonzalo nunca diera un solo centavo para Esperanza.

p. 83-84


Esperanza grew amid a great affection with the family López Mateos. She had a magnificent education, she learned perfectly English, French and Spanish. She studied infirmary and soon she had to work the family then she had economic scarce resources my aunt Elena was widow and she had four children. She entered to work to the English Hospital ... as anesthesist and administrator. Time later had to leave the hospital, because she made her bad the chloroform. She was devoted to translate of French and of English... To her education she added parliamentary stenographer's career. Later she worked in the Secretary of Public Education. Esperanza creció en medio de un gran cariño con la familia López Mateos. Tuvo una magnífica educación, aprendió perfectamente inglés, francés y español. Estudió enfermería y pronto tuvo que trabajar pues la familia tenía escasos recursos económicos mi tía Elena era viuda y tenía cuatro hijos - . Entró a trabajar al Hospital Inglés ... como anestesista y administradora. Tiempo después tuvo que dejar el hospital, pues le hacía mal el cloroformo. Se dedicó a traducir del francés y del inglés... A su educación agregó la carrera de taquígrafa parlamentaria. Más tarde trabajó en la Secretaría de Educación Pública.


Figueroa does not give us any dates. We dont know if Esperanza was close to Toledano before Trotsky was killed, while she was seeing Henry, a Trotsky guard, or after he left Mexico. Toledano and Trotsky were blood enemies. Toledano was the head of the Marxist labor union, a Stalinist, the most vocal voice in Mexico urging the expulsion of Trotsky. After the first unsuccessful attempt on Trotsky's life, Trotsky said the police should question Toledano and Siquieros. After the murder of Trotsky, the Trotsky spokesman said that Toledano had created the atmosphere ripe for assassination.

Trotsky's relationship to Toledano,

Joseph Hansen, Trotsky's chief aide,

In the early letters between Esperanza and Henry, Esperanza was more likely to ridicule Marxism than proclaim herself a Marxist. She seemed to be more interested in arts and literature. It seems indisputable she became politically involved as widely reported sometime in the 1940's. Mexico had a Stalinist revival after WW2 and Trotskyism was virtually absent. The Venona project, a decryption project of U.S. intelligence, recently declassified, said that a Soviet agent worked with Toledano to obtain visas for other Soviet agents.

Henry in a letter in late 1942 tells his sister that Esperanza is "practically a Stalinist". This would be an interesting area to clear up. When did she become associated with Toledano?

In the raid against Trotsky on May 24, 1940, led by Sequieros, a young American guard was killed. Henry in effect was that man's replacement. Because so many letters are missing, and we do not have any of Henry's letters to Esperanza (we can guess from Traven's letter of 1951, that he destroyed those), we dont know if Esperanza ever told Henry she was an admirer of Toledano, or if she realized what that would have meant to Henry.

I knew the teacher Lombardo Toledano by means of Esperanza, who was his collaborator and she went to all the conferences, meetings and acts that he participated in, to transcribe his speeches. He had a lot of respect for her, because Esperanza was a militant with much confidence, who had worked all her life in the social field. The relationship with her connected me to Lombardo, and he began this way to ask me to participate in the production of several documentaries and movies. Conocí al maestro Lombardo Toledano por medio de Esperanza, que era su colaboradora y acudía a todas las conferencias, mitines y actos en los que él participaba, para transcribir sus discursos. Él le tenía mucho respeto, porque Esperanza era una militante de mucha confianza, que había trabajado toda su vida en el campo social. El parentesco con ella me ligaba a Lombardo, y así empezó a solicitarme que participara en la producción de varios documentales y películas.


Figueroa was involved in a fight during a CTM union meeting. He was hit in the mouth, a molar broken. As I read it, he was taken to the hospital. Esperanza stops the nurse from giving him a sedative, that would send him to another world, because they did not know his clinical record, as Esperanza did.

Figueroa does not say what his clinical record is.

Esperanza didn't know anything, but immediately she was mobilized, they located me and she arrived like at 7:30 in the morning, fair when a nurse will pass with a sedative one.
- What is it that you give to him?
- It is a sedative ordered by the doctor.
. No, he cannot take this thing, don't give it to him.
The nurse insisted: she had to complete her orders. The doctor of the union was there for luck, the doctor Santoyo.
- The lady is right. I am medical and I prohibit this sedative.
They were about to send me to the other world, because as they had operated me of emergency they didn't know my clinical record.
Esperanza no sabía nada, pero de inmediato se movilizó, me localizaron y llegó como a las 7:30 de la mañana, justo cuando una enfermera iba a pasar con un sedante.
- ¿Qué es lo que le va dar usted?
- Es un sedante que ordeno el médico.
- No, él no puede tomar una cosa así, no se lo dé.
La enfermera insistió: tenía que cumplir sus órdenes. Por suerte estaba ahí el médico del sindicato, el doctor Santoyo.
- La señora tiene razón. Soy médico y prohíbo ese sedante.
Estuvieron a punto de mandarme al otro mundo, pues como me habían operado de emergencia no sabían mi historial clínico.


Gabriel Figueroa, Memorias, 2005, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Chap. 7

p. 124 Later on Esperanza introduced him (Traven) to my brother and me, saying: "He is Mauricio." When he left, I asked Esperanza: "Why Mauricio?, Is that not Traven?" She responded to me: "Yes, it is Traven, but I call him by his true name. He is son of one of the leaders of Allgemeine Elektrizitats Gessellschaft. Their last name is Rathenau...

Posteriormente Esperanza nos lo presentó a mi hermano y a mí, diciendo: "Él es Mauricio". Cuando se marchó, le pregunté a Esperanza: "¿Por que Mauricio?, ¿qué no es Traven?". Ella me respondió: "Si, es Traven, pero yo lo llamo por su verdadero nombre. Es hijo de uno de los dirigentes de la Allgemeine Elektrizitats Gessellschaft. Su apellido es Rathenau...

p. 125

Apparently Gabriel lived at 1106 Coyoacan with Roberto and Esperanza. Some time during the 40s as he becomes very successful, he buys a property at 39 Zamora, but does not live there himself yet, and offers it to Traven on his trips to the city.

Traven would become godfather to Figueroa's son.

A great friendship arose; every time that he came to Mexico he spoke to us. He had no other friend, nobody; in that moment we were the only ones with who he spoke. He lived in Acapulco, in a land of thirty thousand square meters that he had bought. It was a forest, and he lived with more than thirty dogs, without electric light, because he worked with light of petroleum. He had a Chevrolet 1926 and was proud that it still ran. When he arrived in Mexico he entered in hotels and he gave false names, what worried Esperanza:
It is already very big - she told me.. One day can give this way him an attack or some thing and we won't know about him. Why don't you offer him your house of Coyoacán for when he comes?
I had bought a land in Coyoacán, big and full with trees...
Surgió una gran amistad; cada vez que venía a México nos hablaba. No tenía ni un amigo ni una amiga ni nadie; en ese momento éramos los únicos con quienes hablaba. Vivía en Acapulco, en un terrenito de treinta mil metros cuadrados que había comprado. Era una selva, y vivía con más de treinta perros, sin luz eléctrica, pues trabajaba con luz de petróleo. Tenía un Chevrolet 1926 y estaba orgulloso de que aún caminara. Cuando llegaba a México se metía en hoteles y daba nombres falsos, lo que preocupaba a Esperanza:
- Ya está muy grande - me dijo -. Un día le puede dar un ataque o alguna cosa así y no sabremos de él. ¿Por qué no le ofreces tu casa de Coyoacán para cuando venga?
Yo había comprado un terreno en Coyoacán, grande y lleno de árboles...


I am not sure if Figueroa is saying he has a written document from Traven himself or not. It is interesting that Figueroa, knowing how many stories Traven told about his origins, believes that he has the truth. Esperanza told me, he says. Apparently both believed their entire life they knew the real birth name of B. Traven.

That is more or less the story of my friend Hal Croves, Ret Marut, Torsvan Traven, Bruno Traven, none of those names is the authentic one. I know the authentic one as well as the activity of their family... It will be very interesting to investigate the personal and family motives that took it for the life, the incognito one, the anarchism, the journalism and the literature. Their identity Esperanza told to me and in its testament he left the true name of B. Traven. Ésa es más o menos la historia de mi amigo Hal Croves, Ret Marut, Torsvan Traven, Bruno Traven, ninguno de esos nombres es el auténtico. Yo conozco el auténtico así como la actividad de su familia... Será muy interesante investigar los móviles personales y familiares que lo llevaron por la vida, la incógnita, el anarquismo, el periodismo y la literatura. Su identidad me la platicó Esperanza y en su testamento dejó el verdadero nombre de B. Traven

Rosa Elena inform her that I was to reveal the true name of B. Traven for daily Liberation of Paris.

I spoke with Malú, their daughter, "Mauricio Rathenau", I told him/her. At once he/she made me a comment: "Always inventing a name." I clarified: "I have not invented anything, I have probatory" documents.

...the following day, Malú called... supposed father of Traven could be the true one. She invited us to eat to their house, to know the documents and more details.

I showed her the authentic documents. She examined them all with great interest and she told us that her mom didn't know anything about this.

...Days later I sent her periodic Libération where the interview appeared. She did not call me again. Then, at the end of March, ...she told me that she had received the newspaper and she said: "Very dull publication... also, my mom already knew it." "Yes?", I said.

Rosa Elena Lujan...para informarle que había yo revelado el verdadero nombre de B. Traven para el diario Liberation de París.

Hablé con Malú, su hija, "Mauricio Rathenau", le dije. Enseguida me hizo un comentario: "Todos siempre le inventan un nombre". Aclaré: "Yo no he inventado nada, tengo documentos probatorios".

... de la mañana del día siguiente, Malú llamó... supuesto padre de Traven, que el nombre que le di podría ser el verdadero. Nos invitó a comer a su casa, para conocer los documentos y más detalles.

Le mostré los documentos auténticos. Los examinó todos con gran interés y nos dijo que su mamá no sabía nada de esto.

...Días después le mandé el periódico Libération donde aparecía la entrevista. No volvió a llamarme. Luego, a fines de marzo...Me dijo que había recibido el periódico y dijo: "Muy fría publicación... además, mi mamá eso lo sabía". "¿Sí?", le dije.


p. 134

Pure lie of Rosa Elena, in the interview she remarked that our relationships with Mrs. Lujan had cooled down after Traven's death. My relationship with her ended because she raised a very false deceit, very low, about my sister-in-law Esperanza and I no longer called her again.

The low falsehood of Mrs. Lujan came from her groundless jealousies, since she never met her, toward Esperanza López Mateos - the translator, publisher and representative of Traven up to 1951, date that she unfortunately died.. B. Traven didn't write after the years 1939 or 1940 again.

Pura mentira de Rosa Elena, en la entrevista marcaba que nuestras relaciones con la señora Lujan se habían enfriado después de muerto Traven. Mi relación con ella se terminó porque le levantó un falso muy, muy bajo a mi cuñada Esperanza y ya no volví a llamarle.

La baja falsedad de la señora Lujan vino de sus celos infundados, puesto que jamás la conoció, hacia Esperanza López Mateos - la traductora, editora y representante de Traven hasta 1951, fecha en que infortunadamente murió -. B. Traven no volvió a escribir después de los años 1939 o 1940.


Gabriel Figueroa, Memorias, 2005, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Chap. 11

p. 160

Figueroa does not give any dates. Dov Gruner was executed in Palestine by the British on April 19, 1947. Esperanza was in New York in Jan 1947. The Exodus ship left Baltimore Feb 25, 1947, but Gruner had been held in prison since mid 1946, so it appears Figueroa is mistaking someone else for Dov Gruner.

Esperanza López Mateos took a trip to New York. As she was very reserved she had not spoken about what it was, but on her return she told us...

Esperanza took money of B. Traven, but, to what went, it was there to pass with a hat in the hand to all the stores of Jews in New York to join money for the establishment of Israel. She helped with that and with the Committee that will weigh anchor in Exodus. The ship was there to leave to establish Israel, and the boss of everything was Dov Gruner. When they finished the preparations for the exit of the ship, Gruner invited Esperanza and he told her:
. Why don't you come yourself? You are very good organizer. Why don't you come yourself to Israel to help us to establish our country?

En esa misma época, Esperanza López Mateos hizo un viaje a Nueva York. Como era muy reservada no había hablado de qué se trataba, pero a su regreso nos contó..

Esperanza llevaba dinero de B. Traven, pero, a lo que iba, era a pasar con un sombrero en la mano a todas las tiendas de judíos allí en Nueva York a juntar dinero para el establecimiento de Israel. Ayudó con eso y con el Comité que iba a zarpar en el Exodus. El barco ya estaba listo allí para salir a establecer Israel, y el jefe de todo se llamaba Dov Gruner. Cuando acabaron los preparativos para la salida del barco, Gruner invitó a Esperanza y le dijo:
- ¿Por qué no te vienes para acá? Eres muy buena organizadora. ¿Por qué no te vienes a Israel a ayudarnos a establecer nuestro país?

p. 161

Logically, the trip more likely was in Jan. 1948. If Traven donated money through Esperanza, it more likely came after she returned from Switzerland (where he was said to have a bank account) and after the world-wide publicity of the ship of immigrants refused permission to land in Palestine, the holocaust survivors returned to Germany, from which they had survived and escaped - echoes of Traven's own death ship.

Already here, in Mexico, Esperanza explained this whole matter and later, some years after her death, the Israeli colony in Mexico named a school Esperanza López Mateos as gratefulness for her collaboration in the establishment of Israel.
Ya aquí, en México, Esperanza explicó todo este asunto y más tarde, unos años después de su muerte, la colonia israelita en México hizo una escuela que se llama Esperanza López Mateos como agradecimiento por su colaboración en el establecimiento de Israel.

Esperanza in New York, probably Jan 1947 or possibly Jan 1948

photo by Henry Schnautz

In the second trip, Jan 1948, Esperanza first went to Switzerland in December, then on to New York.

I also believe on the second trip she was in New York during the premiere of the film "Treasure of the Sierra Madre."



Gabriel Figueroa, Memorias, 2005, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Chap. 12

p. 169


To Pancho Villa, the Centaur of the North, in an occasion some Americans asked him if he spoke English, and he answered: "American Smelting, son of a bitch, nada más..." A Pancho Villa, el Centauro del Norte, en una ocasión le preguntaron unos americanos si hablaba inglés, y él contestó: "American Smelting, son of a bitch, nada más..."
p. 163 In 1950 came the strike of Nueva Rosita y Cloete, some mines owned by American Smelting. En 1950 vino la huelga de Nueva Rosita y Cloete, unas minas en las que estaba envuelta la American Smelting
p. 164

There in Nueva Rosita, Esperanza ended up organizing, something for what was very good. Seeing that they were blocked, it organized all the women and it took them to Monterrey. With the money that she took...they bought medicines, provisions, ete. The soldiers could not prevent them to enter with the trucks because they were pure women...

Esperanza was a licensed nurse, she knew much of medicine and she helped to vaccinate all the people and to give them medical services, with some doctors from Monterrey, friends of her.

Allá en Nueva Rosita, Esperanza llegó a organizar, algo para lo que era muy buena. Viendo que estaban bloqueados, organizó a todas las mujeres y se las llevó a Monterrey. Con el dinero que llevaban...compraron medicinas, víveres, ete. Los soldados no pudieron impedir que entraran con los camiones porque eran puras mujeres

Esperanza era enfermera titulada, sabía mucho de medicina y ayudó a vacunar a todas las personas y a darles servicios médicos, con unos doctores de Monterrey, amigos de ella.

p. 167


...she went to receive all the wives of the miners that arrived in trucks and in trains. They were come to the house. I had to leave myself and Esperanza housed them all with mattresses in the floor.

Lo que sí pudimos hacer fue recibir a todas las esposas de los mineros que llegaron en camiones y en trenes. Se vinieron a la casa. Tuve que salirme y Esperanza las alojó a todas con colchones en el suelo.
p. 168 The day that Esperanza died, the miners went to her tomb. El día que murió Esperanza, los mineros fueron a su tumba.