“Evangelina Segunda, you have the beauty of Artemis:
Venus herself fiercely envies the innocence of your smile”
Sunday Magazine, Issue 54, El Dictamen (13 February, 1983)
The centre of Veracruz is full of ghosts, my father says every time we pass by the ruins of the Melchors’ first home in Veracruz, a gloomy residential complex on Avenida Cinco de Mayo. Like so many other buildings in the Historic Quarter, these abandoned barracks are now home to junkies and mangy cats, sorry-looking ghosts pawing through rubbish and disturbing the good consciences of the Port, just like the Headless Nun or the Woman in White once did during colonial times. The first ever painting of Veracruz shows ghosts with dirty faces lying drunkenly in alleys: fleshless horrors who come and go in the hallways outside canteen bathrooms. Shadows who through charity or their own cunning live in coral mansions, buildings whose cornices are crumbling into the streets: a deadly hazard when the wind gets up.
The legitimate owners, descendants of the Spanish nobility, watch disinterestedly as their inheritances crumble to dust because it makes more sense for them to sell the land than spend the money to restore the colonial architecture.
“For a long time, I lived in the National Lottery building above the Fabrics of Mexico shop on Rayón and Independencia… it was called that because the Lottery offices were on the ground floor until they moved in nineteen-ninety something when there was a fire in the cellar… After the fire the owners told us that they were going to remodel the flats but instead they cut off the water and electricity and tried to drive us out… I held out because I didn’t have much money: I wanted to go on paying the fixed rent. I clung on, but eventually got tired of fighting… and I didn’t really like living in that building… I don’t know if you noticed when you were there but it has bad vibes, don’t you think? It’s an uncomfortable place to be, you know what I mean? At night you heard nasty things, screams, moans… One of the residents died; Doña Esa, she was very sensitive to things like that… She was the one who saw the two boys, Evangelina’s sons, playing on the stairs long after the crime came to light… I think that’s why the owners let the building go to hell, maybe they wanted everyone to forget what happened in that flat…”
In 1983, Evangelina Tejera was crowned Queen of the Veracruz Carnival and given the name Evangelina II. “Her Majesty is eighteen, plays tennis, loves modern music and plays the piano,” reported the society pages of the time. She was accompanied to all her official functions as queen by her father, Jaime Tejera Suárez, a doctor, but her mother, whose maiden name was Bosada, is never mentioned. The divorce that split up the family when Evangelina was nine wasn’t reported by the media and neither was Tejera Suárez’ alcoholism and violence; he used to threaten his family with a gun during domestic arguments. Nor the nagging Evangelina’s mother subjected her to on account of the family’s parlous finances, which eventually forced her to leave school and find work as a secretary at a company in the centre of town.
Photographs of the teenage Evangelina bring out her clear eyes, waxen complexion and well-defined cheekbones. Her thin eyebrows are always raised, as though frozen in an expression of flirtatious surprise. Perfect teeth, dreamy eyes, and lush eyelashes. Smiling with her hair down, lying on the grass at a country club, or walking hand in hand through the streets of Veracruz with Octavio Mardones, the bearded Ugly King of 1983, clad in silver lace, sequins, and costume jewellery, enveloped by clouds of confetti.
“Yes, she was pretty. She looked like a gringa. She had green eyes and very pale skin… She had boyfriends from a young age, one of them even hit her, but she was half-crazy, you know? She got addicted to marijuana when she was fifteen but really went off the rails after she was crowned queen of the carnival. She went to all those parties, trendy clubs, a wealthy crowd… They say she met up with posh kids to take drugs at Guillo Pasquel’s house at Emparan and Cinco de Mayo… she was always with that gang who would take cocaine and then go off and do crazy things in their cars. People even got killed but no one ever did anything because the police protected them… Like Picho Malpica, who killed Polo Hoyos’ (the local alcohol baron) daughter just because the girl didn’t want to go out with him. Or Miguel Kaiser, who sold cocaine at cockfights… They say that he was the one who sold her the drugs, to her and that Rosa boy, the father of Evangelina’s two children, and that they sold cocaine and marijuana to other drug addicts from that flat in the Lottery building. Also that they held orgies… and that during one of them she suddenly went nuts and killed the two kids… They say that after she strangled them, she chopped them up on the dining room table so she could bury them in a plant pot…”
It was Evangelina’s younger brother Juan Miguel Tejera Bosada, twenty-one, who reported the homicide to the authorities after detecting a rotting odour emanating from the flower beds on the balcony and Evangelina was unable to coherently account for the whereabouts of his nephews Jaime and Juan Miguel, three and two respectively. This was on the sixth of April, 1989.
According to forensic experts, the boys had died three or four weeks earlier and in both cases the cause of death was cranial-encephalic trauma with fractures and internal bleeding. The little bodies had been further damaged after their death: an attempt had been made to burn them on a pyre of paper in the living room of flat 501 of the National Lottery building, and when it failed they amputated the legs so they could fit them in an Oaxacan plant pot, fifty centimetres in diameter, which could be seen for weeks from the main road of the city, Independencia Avenue. Jaime and Juan Miguel were buried on Wednesday, 12 of April 1989, almost a week after Evangelina was arrested. Because none of the family went to the Institute of Forensic Medicine to claim the bodies, the authorities arranged for their burial at the municipal cemetery. The ceremony was well-attended and there was a lavish array of flowers.
“The court was jam-packed, full of officials, reporters and morbid gawpers waiting for the murderess to confess… she appeared behind the railings looking properly fucked up, the poor thing, hunched over, dishevelled, dressed in a skirt, trainers, and a white t-shirt that was far too big for her. Her blonde hair was filthy and her chin was stuck to her chest… She never looked up once the whole time she was speaking, I never saw her eyes. It was as though she was afraid of people. She clutched at the bars, her hands trembling… Her lawyer, Pedro García Reyes – we used to call him Pedro the Terrible because he was such a crook – was sitting on one of the secretarial desks, smoking like crazy. He spent the whole time shouting at the public prosecutor Nohemi Quirasco, interrupting her questions… an hour later Evangelina said that she hadn’t killed the boys, claiming that they’d starved to death because she didn’t have the money to feed them and she hadn’t said anything to her family because they were estranged… Then the prosecutor asked her why she’d buried the bodies in a plant pot and fuck me if Evangelina didn’t say ‘Because I was scared’, ‘Scared of what, or who?’ Quirasco asked but that pompous idiot Pedro the Terrible objected to the question, claiming that it wasn’t relevant… that was when I really began to suspect that there was something going on, they were hiding something… So when the judge suddenly sent her for psychiatric evaluation I realized they were going to get her off on an insanity plea, which was exactly what happened…”
Evangelina was remanded to the Ignacio Allende Centre for Social Rehabilitation in the Port of Veracruz and stayed there until 1990 when Judge Carlos Rodriguez Moreno decided to open special proceedings and send her to the Veracruz Psychiatric Institute where she was placed in the care of Camerino Vázquez Martínez, a psychiatrist very familiar with Evangelina’s family. Of the three medical evaluations carried out on the accused, only that of Marco Antonio Rocha diagnosed ‘anti-social personality disorder with acute outbreaks of psychosis’; the others found no evidence of neurological or endocrinological conditions that might be responsible for Evangelina’s behaviour.
Ordinary proceedings re-opened in 1995 after a string of thwarted appeals by the public prosecutor. Judge Samuel Baizabal Maldonado sentenced the former carnival queen to twenty-eight years in prison and a fine of thirty-five pesos for the crime of second degree murder of Jaime and Juan Miguel Tejera Bosada. In his summation, the judge affirmed his belief that Evangelina had demonstrated sufficient reason and understanding of the criminal act she had committed when she tried to get rid of the two bodies. There was also the testimony of her younger brother, who directly accused her of having committed the crime.
Daniel, gang member
“I don’t think she killed the kids… She wasn’t a violent person at all… Sure, she was off her head, a junky: she liked drugs, weed, and coke, but she wasn’t a maniac… At first I thought that she’d killed them because I’d noticed that the kids bothered her when she was trying to get high, but she told me she hadn’t, she’d never be capable of something like that and especially not chopping them into pieces… I went round to that flat a lot: we used to hang out there… Mario, the Kaiser, Guillo, Tiburcio, Picho, Lion Face. Everyone came round and they had everything… a world class stash, the old fashioned kind, not the shit they sell now… coke that came in flakes, crystals that costs a thousand pesos a gram back then but that really gave you a buzz… The flat was always full of people snorting that shit, drinking, dancing… and the kids were in the bedroom, you know? I saw them a few times, they were both blonde, like her… I think Evangelina went crazy later because of everything she went through… I think the narcos killed the kids out of revenge because she and that guy Rosa took all the cocaine and spent everything they earned from dealing… I think that’s why she never confessed but also why she never said anything else. She’d rather live with the stigma than be killed by them too. And that’s why she hooked up with the Zeta in the joint, to protect herself from her enemies…”
In prison, Evangelina recovered from her disorders and continued with her appeals. She ran various businesses inside Allende prison, gave aerobics classes, and was named queen of the prison carnival. Later, she was transferred to Pacho Viejo, a prison in Perote where she earned an honorary mention in the ‘Letters to Society’ literary competition and met the man who would become her lover, Oscar Sentíes Alfonsín, aka Güero Valli, a very dangerous prisoner with links to the Gulf Cartel who was in charge of drug trafficking inside the prison. Originally from Cosamaloapan, he was serving a nine year sentence for robbery – he’d previously been imprisoned for public health offences and illegal possession of a firearm. Güero Valli went on a tour of the prisons of the state of Veracruz and Evangelina went with him, from Allende to Cosamaloapan, Perote to Villa Aldama, Amatlán to Coatzacoalcos. There, in May 2008, Sentíes Alfonsín spoke to state officials and managed to secure the early parole of his lover, signed by Zeferino Tejeda Uscanga, the then Director of Social Rehabilitation.
But Evangelina didn’t leave his side immediately. She continued living with her partner until October 2008, when Alfonsín Sentíes was murdered in an isolation cell to which he had been sent after supposedly organizing a riot at Coatzacoalcos prison. The autopsy report stated that of the fifty-six stab wounds inflicted upon the victim, only three were actually mortal.
Over two decades after the double homicide shocked Veracruz society, people still whisper about Evangelina, as though she were a ghost. They say she works at a laboratory in the centre. They say that she still likes bad boys. They say that she’s prettier than ever. Parents invoke her to make their children behave and eat their vegetables: ‘Evangelina!’ they shout in exasperation and the children burst into tears.
And while the legend of her crime continues to pass from mouth to mouth in urgent whispers, a mysterious glow can be seen in the window of her former home.