letters 1940-1943

Henry Schnautz said Esperanza Lopez Mateos was B. Traven's daughter. He never indicated to me that was contrary to public knowledge. Esperanza wrote Henry letters referring to her padre, and B. himself, the mystery man, wrote a letter claiming her in no uncertain terms.

Henry Schnautz is a young idealistic Socialist in the Great Depression. He goes to Mexico to defend the revolution, Leon Trotsky. He sees him die. He meets a girl. She is the most fascinating woman he can imagine. She is difficult. She is attached to multiple historical personalities. She may be hiding an association with Lombardo Toledano, the premier Stalinist in the entire country, the man Trotsky himself said was preparing the climate for his murder.

Two years after the assassination, Henry cannot stay in Mexico. He is not really needed at the Trotsky compound, and he is not able to work. America is at war. Esperanza is flush with new possibilities. She is the business agent for the internationally famous author B. Traven. She is his Spanish translator. She has a Traven book with her name on the title page. Her cousin and brother-in-law Gabriel Figueroa, who lives in her house, is making movies and talking to the world's top producers and directors. Henry won't let go but Esperanza makes him. She writes a letter threatening to call the police, and she copies Henry's boss at the compound.

Henry does not spend another night in the compound. Maybe one. Its a turning point in the young Socialist's life. He writes, will he sacrifice more for the party, the party that is sacrificing him, or will he sacrifice the party. Thats just the first 3 years.

Henry goes on to serve in Europe, to make a return trip to Mexico, and to host Esperanza in New York in both 1947 and 1948.

Esperanza commits suicide in 1951. She had an accident on a mountain and spent 3 years in pain. Traven (now writing as Hal Croves) seems to think the accident happened in Henry's company. Henry assumes Traven knows better and is just willfully lying. The doctor who signs the death certificate said it was not suicide, that she was shot in the back of the head, probably due to her union activism, he said. Gabriel Figueroa, an honest man, was there, and said it was suicide.

We have a lot of letters, but probably less than half, and what things were never written we will never know. The circumstances of Esperanza's birth and the identity of her parents has not been clear, though new people are bringing forth stories they have heard. Traven has led even the most diligent researchers on a nearly 100 year identity mystery. Traven said he was in Mexico about 1910 and Esperanza must have indicated to Henry she was born about 1913, but apparently neither of those are true. I have tried to let the story tell itself. It takes some effort from the reader. Esperanza and Henry might occasionally look youthful - but they were. Henry was a fine and entertaining writer when he was in good style. Esperanza was a striking woman of originality and intensity that men long remembered. I hope you enjoy it and I hope it honors their memory.

 

The more significant letters are in Bold
A caveat - many, perhaps most, of the letters are lost
1940_10_2 - to Marie, other guards leaving
1940_12_? - Cardenas visit
1941_5_15 - told the gal goodbye, working for the G.P.U.
 

1941_6_24 - first letter from Esp, invitation to Las Penas de las Hadas

1941_7_4 - wreathed in roses

1941_7_13 - The spell has been broken

1941_7_27 Sunday - Toluca

 

1941 ? - Esp to Henry - "for your sake, good by"

1941_8_11 - letter to Marie, first version of Esp childhood

1941_8_20 - Henry to mom - first anniversary of Trotsky death

Esperanza with her walking companion "the professor"

 

1941_8_27 - Henry to mom

 
 
1941_9_3 to Marie
1941_10_30 to Marie - Esp broods but is tough
 
 
1941_12_3 - to Marie - burned up with everybody - not reading our literature

Climb up Popocatepetl - Dec 7, 1941

 
1942_1_13 - to Marie - projected visit

1942_1_28 - Steinbeck, Ford, Figueroa, Traven

 

Hello Folks - Meet Esperanza - Henry and Esperanza walk into a recording studio, Feb 13-1942

 
1942_3_22- the record startled the folks, esperanza to descend into popo
 
1942_4_18 - esp explored a cave

1942_5_26 - follow your road and allow me to follow mine

the reply

 
1942_6_10 - listening at the hardware store for buried treasure stories

1942_7_6 - a real cuckoo

 

1942_11_14 - she is practically a stalinist

1942_11_25 - Esp going to Oaxaca to nurse Traven

1942_12_11 - Henry letter home describing Oaxaca trip

1942_12_18 - Henry - War with Walter - Can Esp visit the compound?

 

1943_1_14 - the price of finding a father was paid by my losing you

1943_1_16 -going in one month

1943_1_17 - leave me alone

1943_1_21 - leaving 7th

1943_1_25 - when i committed the stupidity of accepting your friendship

1943_1_26 - sacrifice more or sacrifice party