A Dangerous Place in a Dangerous Country

A Dangerous Place in a Dangerous Country

By Lucina Kathmann

Photos: María Fernanda Ferral and María Elena Ferral

Credit: Reporters Without Borders


On March 30, journalist María Elena Ferral was murdered in broad daylight. On June 8, San Miguel de Allende PEN treasurer, Lucina Kathmann, spoke to Ferral’s daughter, journalist María Fernanda Ferral. The following is an edited version of their conversation.


I am María Fernanda de Luna Ferral, journalist and director of El Quinto Portal de Veracruz online newspaper, and the daughter of María Elena Ferral, a prizewinning journalist.


I am from Papantla, Veracruz, a city that has been named one of the Pueblos Magicos. On March 30, my mother, María Elena Ferral, was murdered there. She was a strong person, absolutely passionate about her work as a journalist. 


I have understood for many years that one day I might have to face what I am facing. My mother had been under threat for 14 years. During much of that time, she had security protection, but after 2017 it was withdrawn. If it had continued, it is likely that she would be alive today. 


On the day my mother died, I solicited protection from the Interior Secretary, from the National Commission on Human Rights, and from the Mexican Commission for Attention to Victims. I got it starting the next day, for 60 days. I have solicited an extension.


On May 24, at 11:00 a.m., I was traveling with my bodyguards when the driver said someone was following us. The guard in the back seat covered me with his body. When someone in the other car began to shoot, he returned fire, and we were able to escape. 


I am not in Papantla now; since the attempt on my life, I am forbidden to return for six months unless I make special arrangements in advance.


I have only two months left to finish law school at the Universidad Veracruzana in Poza Rica. I am trying to finish on time and somehow survive. 


In the county of Gutierrez Zamora, before the election, three of four candidates for mayor were killed, as well as my mother. All this shooting is about control of the territory. We are located on the only exit to the sea, at Tecolutla. My mother wrote an important article about this. And yes, it is a systemic problem; it is not a situation of one criminal or group of criminals. 


My mother and I have always seen the role of the journalist as key in this situation. If there is no investigative journalism and nobody denounces what is going on, the dark forces will be able to take over completely. We upset them by telling what they are doing, and we must continue. 


Veracruz is one of the most dangerous places in the country to practice journalism, and it is in a country that is one of the most dangerous places in the world to practice journalism. So I want to ask everyone’s help to keep us from being forgotten, and, in fact, to keep me alive!