Journalist author Elena Poniatowska interviews Gabriel Figueroa and family in their home at 39 Zamora in Coyoacan in 1996. (39 Zamora is the same return address Hal Croves used in his letter to Henry Schnautz in Nov. 1951)
Elena Poniatowska, Todo Mexico - Tomo 3, La Mirada Que Limpia, Editorial Diana, 1996
Todo Mexico, La Mirada que Limpia
An interview with Gabriel Figueroa, his wife Antonieta, son Gabriel, and daughters María and Tolita.
This book is hard to find. it took me many months of randomly searching used booklists until an ex-library copy came on market. Esperanza committed suicide in 1951. This is the only description I have ever read. When I finally got the book, it contained the immense tragedy that Esperanza died of a gunshot to the head. The death certificate, now found on ancestry, signed by the doctor, simply used "gunshot wound produced by firearm projectile" as cause of death. In the book daughter María raised this -
María p.93 (translated)
When we were young, my brother Gabriel and I got hepatitis that kept us in bed for a month and a half. Doctor Pepe Álvarez Amézquita, who came to check us up, said that Esperanza had not committed suicide, but that she had been killed because she had been shot in the back, in the back of the head.... According to him, since Esperanza was involved in union trouble, it was very possible that she had been killed. So Álvarez Amézquita, who was in charge of writing the death certificate, wrote it in a way that would not make any noise to my father and Roberto. This comment made my father very upset because he has always said that he saw a blood clot in Esperanza's temple.
Gabriel (the son)
Esperanza is as mysterious a character as B. Traven.
In Memorias, Figueroa does not speak at all of Esperanza's death. The children have said there was too much pain to speak of it. None of the Figueroas doubt her death was a suicide. María, who was the only one to raise the doctor's statement, says this -
We in the house can't really know what happened because we didn't live through it and we don't know for sure. Besides, all the people involved have already died. And if all this has remained a "taboo" it is because it is something that has hurt my father too much. Suicide is a very painful thing, even more so when viewed against the idea of murder with its glamorous air. But if this last conjecture, which sees Esperanza as a heroine, had been true, my father would have been able to tolerate his cousin's death a little more, which was not the case at all. The suicide of his extraordinary cousin Esperanza was something contradictory to what my father learned to live with for the rest of his years.
The day Esperanza died, my father and Roberto moved to Coyoacán. From that moment on, the affair was over and they never spoke about it again, not for the sake of getting it out of the way, but because there was no remedy.
Esperanza's death was a suicide because before she died she left a letter to Roberto and my father.
The letter from Esperanza is in the book. It is addressed to Roberto and Gabriel at their home at Avenida Coyoacan 1106. The letter is not a suicide letter. It is actually a last will and testament, an affectionate but not necessarily imminent good-bye. It is not dated, in the book, but it is signed and evidently written and mailed from New York.
453 W. Nineteen Street, New York
Esperanza Lopez Mateos de Figueroa
This is Henry Schnautz's apartment in New York.
Esperanza stayed with Henry in his apartment from Jan 26, 1947 (telegram announcing arrival) to Feb 26, 1947 (postcard from Cuba - "only a day away...")
The following winter she also stayed there, from Nov 16, 1947 (telegram) then she went on the long journey to Europe and returned from Paris Jan 14, 1948 (letter). I do not know how long she stayed in New York before going home, but the premiere of Treasure of the Sierra Madre was Jan 24, 1948 and Henry had photos of her in fur.
Esperanza died on Sept. 19, 1951.
The letter is an affectionate address to all the people she loves. She does not include Henry, but of course she does in a poetic way, perhaps Poniatowska only picked up the return address from the envelope. I would like to see it. I think Esperanza enjoyed the double life. Maybe enjoyed is not the right word, but insisted. She could imagine living with this adoring and funny guy but there was no chance she was ever going to do it unless she could split in two.
The third revelation I took from this book was on the last page. They gave the interviews 45 years after Esperanza's death. Figueroa had a fantastic career at the top of his glamorous profession, a great family, a long and creative life.
Figueroa p. 209
Esperanza López Mateos is the person I have loved the most in my life. To fall in love? No, how, if she married my brother. She was like my mother. She opened the skies of the social world to me and she was the one who instilled in me the love for music.
Finally there is Figueroa's belief that Traven's birth name was Mauricio Rathenau. This came from Esperanza. Or it also came from Esperanza because Figueroa had Traven living in his house and believes Traven confided his secrets. It was covered somewhat more thoroughly in Memorias but it's the same story. This is now also the belief of the heirs of Rosa Elena Lujan (Traven's wife). This cannot be entirely discounted, but there is a researcher in Germany, Jan Christoph Hauschild, who claims he is finding the missing link between Feige and Marut. Figueroa claimed to have proving documents in Memorias, but was not clear what they were. It seems like if they existed they would have come to light.
Traven's Triumph by Timothy Heyman
El Triunfo de Traven por Timothy Heyman
Esperanza's Letter p.94
Roberto and Gabriel Figueroa Mateos, 1106 Coyoacán Avenue, Colonia del Valle, Esperanza López Mateos. To open up when I have ceased to be.
To you two, Roberto and Gabriel Figueroa Mateos, I would like to dedicate, before embarking on this long journey, all that I possess. My earthly goods, being few, have constituted for me a great treasure for being all of them gifts from you; return then, to your generous hands always open to give, always sweet and strong to stretch out when your help was needed.
Because this house of ours is so dear to me, our books and small porcelains, among which are the teapots that Tito has been bringing me, happy to know that I was pleased with them, do not keep them as dead things, do not put them in greedy hands among which they would become ashes, without giving rise to another smile, nor a new small or great enjoyment.
As for our immense and common spiritual wealth that has followed us in a sweet, fruitful, exceptionally harmonious life, do not make of it a future of limitations. I take with me the part that corresponds to me, that which in the eternal cosmic becoming will always be a manageable act; you follow as you did yesterday the path on which, by a fortuitous event, I had to stop before. Continue enjoying all the good, the beautiful, the positive that this stage of life has, and fighting nobly and intelligently against the obstacles of the miseries of others, not to mention the spittoon. You, Gabi, take care of everything related to Mauricio [B. Traven], remember that he is a quite singular guy; let Beto, with the care he puts into everything, make a complete inventory of his and Mauricio's things and send them to them if he wants to; invite him to spend his last years in Coyoacán, maybe he will accept since his years of loneliness have already been many.
Protect Pinochilla [Elena, his sister] and see that she lacks nothing; she has a strange and limited vision of the world. If she leaves you, help her to gain a little happiness, I could not. If Chijlta and Avecita need help and it is in your hands to give it, I know you will do it. To Mario, her brother, tell him that I have always been very fond of him and that I appreciate him for being a completely honest man and an excellent father. To Fito [Adolfo López Mateos], like Elena, it was difficult for me to understand him, but until the last moment I hoped to see him react and stop being the failed child, who waits outside the classroom and tries to prove to the foolish teachers that through unsuspected ways you can achieve success that is not exactly what was achieved in the noble fair.
To Gloria [her friend] give her my clothes for personal use, the rags she likes best. To my ornamental chattels, distribute them between Ave la grande and Chopis [daughter of Mariano López Mateos]; all the rest, my hundred sweaters, pants, etc., to whomever needs them most.
To Antonio Rodríguez, the young Portuguese journalist, give whatever he asks for; he is a noble man of great talent. He is poor, has a wife and children; if he does not ask for anything, as he will surely do, give him money, more or less equivalent to the cost of a funeral with much requiem, which will not be necessary for me.
To Vicente Lombardo Toledano, tell him that if in any discussion I was violent, I treated him harshly and sent him to the devil to forgive me, that he knows well how much I admire his talent, his courage and his manhood and how ten years of his struggle bound me to him with strong affection. To Lázaro Cárdenas my faith in our people. To my friends of the great port of cordiality my affection and unwavering admiration for their purity and reciprocity.
453 W. Nineteen Street, New York.
Esperanza López Mateos de Figueroa.