Seventeen-year-old Sofia Ahumada during her suicide

  llustration 1 “Seventeen-year-old Sofia Ahumada during her suicide”. Source: El Imparcial, June 1, 1899, 1.


llustration 1 “Seventeen-year-old Sofia Ahumada during her suicide”. Source: El Imparcial, June 1, 1899, 1.

The proliferation of publicity about suicide in Mexico City’s press during the early 20th century reveals people’s fears about the transition from childhood to adolescence, which included material dangers, such as alcohol, but also access to recreational drugs, guns, and novels that reflected the anxieties of Catholic critics of the representation of suicide in the sensational press. Writer Ángel del Campo, under the pseudonyms of Tick-Tack and Micrós, published the short story “El de los Claveles Dobles” in the newspaper El Cómico.  In the story, Faviano, nicknamed “El Gratis,” an ambitious but poorly paid reporter, lives in an attic without paying rent. “El Gratis” rides a bicycle to interviews with witnesses in police stations and in neighborhoods. Campo revealed that the reporter’s poverty is due to the lack of sensational news in the press.[1] The reporter focuses on the lives of Pepe, a married neighbor, and young Felipa as they end their romantic affair; events end in tragedy for the couple. The neighbors, according to Campo, spread gossip that the young woman lost her virginity to the rebellious Pepe. Felipa, the protagonist, based on Sofia Ahumada, overwhelmed by her emotions, decides to put an end to her life. In Campo’s novel, Felipa in her desperation runs to the bell tower of the cathedral and jumps to her death.[2] In the description of the crime scene, Campo focused on the number of reporters who washed Felipa’s jawbone and femur, and he noted the letters stained by the fresh blood. At the end of the story, paralleling true events, “El Gratis” begs Pepe for the original letter from Felipa for a short story for Pifano, a newspaper inspired by El Cómico. Initially, Pepe refuses to share the original love letter; however, Felipe acquiesces and shares a copy with the inquisitive reporter.                                                                                                                             

The reporters of El Imparcial focused on the last week of Ahumada’s life. Ahumada jumped to her death from the bell tower in the cathedral in downtown Mexico City, as depicted in Illustration 1.

Reporters noted that the 17-year-old Ahumada suffered from insomnia and nervousness. Witnesses, such as Ahumada’s sister, claimed in interviews with reporters that Ahumada often clenched her fists in moments of stress.[3] Ahumada’s sister provided ample information on the pain experienced by the deceased; she added that Ahumada had stopped sleeping and had become visibly disheartened in the days before her suicide. Bonifacio Martínez, Ahumada’s boyfriend, told a reporter that he had grown tired of her hysteria. The reporter emphasized that Ahumada’s friends had done nothing to prevent her death. While El Imparcial widely reported on Ahumada’s suicide, in the aftermath, the newspaper warned that reporters from rival newspapers “should avoid fictionalized accounts of suicides.”[4]

Carlos Zúñiga Nieto completed his PhD in History at Columbia University. His dissertation entitled, “Violent Passions: Childhood and Crime in the Making of Modern Mexico, 1870-1910,” analyzes the transition from the sentimental ideology of childhood innocence to scientific definitions of childhood in Mexico City and the Yucatán Peninsula. His research interests include the history of childhood and youth, history of emotions, and gender and family history. He is currently writing an article on the cultivation of emotions in Mexico City and Mérida’s children's magazines and periodicals during the anti-colonial rebellions against Spain in Cuba and Yucatán during The Ten Years’ War (1868-1878).

[1]Ángel del Campo, El de los claveles dobles: ni amor al mundo ni piedad al cielo: el suicidio de Sofía Ahumada : expediente de prensa y literatura mexicanas (Ciudad de México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2008), 10.

[2]Ángel’s del Campo short novel was published in editions of Villasana’s El Còmico in the aftermath of Sofia Ahumada’s suicide.

[3]El Imparcial, June 1, 1899, 1.

[4]El Imparcial, July 5, 1901,2.