According to Glenn Avent, chair of the history department, a single murder can represent an entire community. Avent presented his thesis and evidence for the Invited Faculty Lecture Series on March 29 in the French Memorial Chapel.
The story of Maria del Pilar Moreno was one about revenge. Del Pilar Moreno killed her father’s killer, Francisco Tejeda Llorca when she was 14 years old. Tejeda’s murder happened on July 10, 1922, in the Colonia Roma area of Mexico City.
“What follows then is a fusion of my work, and someone else’s that I think makes kind of an interesting meditation on the possibilities that you can find within just one small and apparently obscure event that seems to lead out, in so many different directions,” Avent said.
Tejeda was Senator-elect at the time of his murder. According to Avent, Mexico City was rebuilding itself. A revolution had finished only a few years prior; however, as Avent noted, some historians argue the revolution was continuing.
Del Pilar Moreno was acquitted, despite the perceived overwhelming evidence against her. During her trial, stories of an additional strong man came out, and a bullet that came from a different gun than the one that Moreno was using was found in Tejeda.
“There’s a kind of eye-for-eye sort of justice implied with this. Tejeda Llorca got away with it, and so she’d done it too,” Avent said.
The trial’s celebrity status elevated the public appeal of del Pilar Moreno. Tickets were sold to the trial, and del Pilar Moreno reported receiving flowers while in jail and after the trial process.
“The amazing thing about it was she had done something that looked rather like what the deputies did of the defense of masculine honor. She had appropriated something that was ostensibly the prerogative of man,” Avent said. “And so there was a kind of inversion of the established order. In that sense, that gave it a kind a celebrity (nature).”
At the time, government officials could not have criminal charges brought against them unless their peers in the Senate tried them either as political or criminal crimes. Officials shooting each other — Tejeda shooting del Pilar Moreno’s father — was relatively common, according to Avent.
“It might have seemed in that sort of retributive form of justice that if Tejeda Llorca then Maria Moreno somehow deserved a kind of parallel impunity and a pass on the violation of laws,” Avent said.
Voting for next year’s Invited Faculty Lectures is open until today at 5 p.m.