María Fernanda Ampuero is an Ecuadorian writer and journalist, focusing on fiction and nonfiction. Her horror writing is mostly anchored to the terrors of gender violence, broken families, migrations, and non-normative, vulnerable bodies; this has made her one of the most relevant authors in contemporary Spanish-language literature. In this dossier, three adult women return to girlhood. María Fernanda has blown our minds, and we want to know—urgently and vehemently—why. We want to pinpoint the moment when childlike curiosity starts shooting off like a machine gun, when everything seems relevant and every doubt must be resolved, just to keep calm. Here, Natalia, Rosalía, and I seek to restore that calm by interviewing the author, identifying the place from which she writes, and remembering that childhood is the mark we all bear on our backs.
We take for granted that María Fernanda’s presence in the media has unjustly eclipsed her works prior to Pelea de gallos (Páginas de Espuma, 2018) and Sacrificios humanos (Páginas de Espuma, 2021), so we will take no steps to resolve this. All three of us have clung like koalas to the trunks of these books: they are the ones that have kept us up at night or become ruminant thoughts as we walk down the street, accompanied by the inherent fear of being women in a world where women are violated in every way possible.
Rosalía Vázquez Moreno says in her article “Fear: What Is It Good For? (Or Why We Should All Read María Fernanda Ampuero)” that she was led back to her childhood and teenage years, coming across Chucky and his movies along the way, because it is impossible to convert to Ampuerismo without identifying the filmic references that wink at us from her writing.
Natalia Andrea Mera Sandoval, in her article “To Write Is Also To Name A Life That Has Not Been Named (Where Is María Fernanda Ampuero Writing?),” works to understand the metaphorical places from which the author writes, as well as the color of her humanity, which could well be part of a certain past. We three women who write in this dossier have converted to Ampuerismo not as a religious sect nor as some elitist literary tryst (heaven forbid), but rather as a safe space where hunger fades through flaming-hot mouthfuls you can’t stop eating. You ingest, you cry, your nose runs, you take a sip of fresh water, and the cycle repeats.
The three authors of this dossier have sought answers, and to justify the pain María Fernanda Ampuero’s writing has caused in us. We say, for example, that she writes from the migrant’s solitude, from familial mourning, and that in this way she forges her readers’ character, and the character of her women readers in particular… and we repeat this until we are convinced. Because we like to read and we know literature is cutting, not complacent. We are, in these texts, three little girls made sisters, to the point of becoming triplets who collapse face-up and trembling on the same bed, full of fear, waiting for a man to sit down in an old wooden chair and read us the last story that’s keeping us from falling asleep. Our feet are cold, our eyes wide, and our tongues numb.
On every page, we identify the putrefaction of the family; the past that mercilessly bruises the present; the danger that appears like an army of ants within something that claims to be a home; the filth, the repellent joy and precarity of women writers. Ampuero makes this last point very clear. She asks us to use the word “success” measuredly, to not confuse her work with an economic stability that is nonexistent when you turn your life, your time, and the bags under your eyes over to writing. Ampuero’s codes are hard to decipher; you never know if one or several women are calling on you to get out while you still can or giving you the cruel choice to remain, a victim for now who will later turn into a victimizer. We don’t know, in truth, if her work translates into survival manuals or frightening stalactites.
Colombian writer Natalia Mera portrays a María Fernanda who puts on red lipstick to write about the poison of familial inheritance; she has every intention to wrap us up in her cry, and for all women to join in with her chorus. Ecuadorian writer Rosalía Vázquez looks in the same direction, but delves into the utility of fear with a clear intention to find that which has (not) been lost; she indeed seems to find it.
We are three baddies, three bitches, three witches who have not come out unscathed, but who understand that language can also be broken into little pieces and thrown into the sea to feed the jellyfish, the medusas. We camp up with the idea that medusas feed on words; it’s the only possible explanation with which to craft sweet, romantic paradoxes around one of the most deceitful defense mechanisms—I firmly refuse to call it poetic—in the natural world. To glow like a medusa, to defend yourself like a medusa, to shoo others away like a medusa is sad, even if the story—as untruthful as humanity itself—tries to dose it with fantastic myths recalling madness.
Let’s hope it will never be too late to leave behind the panopticon where women hear the same phrases repeated again and again, where the same punishments are meted out to us from the gigantic eye that watches us, ensuring we don’t give off so much light as to blind it. Maybe literature can serve us as payback when we read and write about women who do us justice. But not getting out unscathed is another sign that we will not always find the answers we seek. Still wondering why, being kind to our own childhoods, braiding our little girls’ hair—in silence—might keep us from jumping into the sea.