It’s only natural – what with this being a website about my poetry – that most of my posts centre on that. Sometimes, though, the focus is rightly wrenched onto other subjects. This is one of those times.
My friend John Sevigny is a US photographer who spends a lot of time working in Central America. Nice work if you can get it, you might think. Except in early Jan, while working in Mexico, he and a colleague were kidnapped by members of a cartel. Over a dozen armed men burst into their apartment, beat the living daylights out of them with boots and guns, dragged them outside, and drove away with them. This is not – sadly – an uncommon event in Mexico, where over 20,000 people have been ‘disappeared’.
What John and his colleague experienced in the following 38 hours is the stuff of nightmares. I won’t list it here. If you want to, you can read John’s article by following the link at the end of this piece. But you don’t have to. You really don’t.
I have no idea why it was that – at the end of those 38 hours – someone took a decision to let them go, but they did. Other people in the same place ended up dead. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, so far as I can see.
One month on, John is recovering in the US, and has chosen to go public with the story of what happened to him. He knows that he has the luck and the good fortune (odd words to use of a man who’s been through what he’s been through, but there you go) to speak out. Firstly, because he’s still alive. Thousands of Mexicans have simply disappeared at the hands of cartels, remember. Secondly, unlike Mexicans who live with the threat of the cartels every day, he’s relatively safe, and can afford to speak.
He knows this gives him an opportunity to use his story to draw attention to what’s going on in Mexico, and what is happening to people there. And – as always – it’s women who bear the brunt of the whirlwind of brutality and violence in the society around them. We live in a world where nameless Mexicans dying does not make headline news, but a US photographer talking about what happened to him in those hours when he was kidnapped… well, that does. Or it can, anyway. And that’s a world of difference.
In an attempt to try and make some good come out of this brutality, we’ve been trying to work out what it’s possible to do. And our suggestion is that making a donation to your local Rape Crisis centre, or an organisation which works with survivors of torture, would be the most appropriate option. They never have enough money for the vitally important work they’re called upon to do.
That might – hopefully – be the positive thing that comes out of what happened. I know John and I would like to think so. And if you want to read John’s account, be warned. It is not, in any way, easy reading.