Just as the end of Title 42 did not bring the predicted surge of migrants, the Biden Administration’s new immigration plan will not halt migrants from making the dangerous trip across Mexico to seek safe haven in the US. I wrote Textures of Terror: The Murder of Claudina Isabel Velasquez and Her Father’s Quest for Justice to help readers understand the violence and corruption that drives migration. Claudina Isabel’s murder and the efforts of her father to bring her murderer(s) to justice provide a lens not only into the suffering and loss of an affected family, but also offers an up-close appraisal of the inner-workings of the Guatemalan criminal justice system and its role in the maintenance of inequality, patriarchy, power and impunity. My book is about women, violence and migration coming out of Guatemala and the US role in this violence from the genocide of the 1980s to the present.

Textures of Terror is about confronting impunity while living on the uncertain and hazy frontiers of life and death. It is about my contact with the private traumas of others as they face terror as well as their own haunting feelings of inadequacy in the midst of unimaginable levels of violence. It is about the unreliability of memory and the slipperiness of truth as each are deployed to counter silence and demand justice for unspeakable crimes. It is my journey through memory, violence and recovery in Guatemala. The story of Jorge Velasquez’s quest for justice for the murder of his daughter and the stories of other women seeking help or safe haven from crime and terror simultaneously transcend the individual and teach us all something about humanity and ourselves.

Throughout the book, I weave vignettes from my forensic experiences investigating the genocide to my current work on cases of feminicide, extrajudicial execution and social cleansing.  I highlight the ways military structures of the past have morphed into and overlap with contemporary structures of violence: gangs, drug traffickers, and organized crime. The ripple effects of violence as well as corruption in Guatemala are seen in the plight of refugees at our southern border and Guatemalan justice operators seeking political asylum in the United States. These transitions of violence and corruption have devastating consequences for all Guatemalans, but especially Guatemalan women. Textures of Terror provides a framework for understanding why and how Guatemalan men, women, youth and children are fleeing criminal violence in all of its public and private manifestations. The survivor experiences of domestic violence show the links to larger histories of public and private violence as well as the institutional exclusion of indigenous communities and the intersectionality of these histories of exclusion with the second-class status of women and girls.