© Guilia Iacolutti
Federico Mastrogiovanni, born in Rome in 1979, is an Italian journalist and documentary maker who has been living and working in Mexico since 2009. He holds a degree in sociology from La Sapienza University in Rome and a master’s degree from the Faculty of Political Sciences at UNAM. He has worked for Radio France Internationale, Milenio Semanal and other important publications and media organisations. Federico Mastrogiovanni currently works for Variopinto magazine, Gatopardo magazine, Esquire Latin America and the Brazilian newspaper Opera Mundi. Ni vivos ni muertos was awarded the PEN México 2015 Award and the National Journalism Award 2015.
With El asesino que no seremos („The Assassin We Will Not Be“), the journalist Federico Mastrogiovanni has written a biographical chronicle of the life of Edwin, about his past in a gang, his experiences in numerous US correctional institutions, and his return to life outside. Edwin spent most of his life in the United States, where his single mother had found work. She could not dedicate much time to her children, and in their neighbourhood it was common for young people to form street gangs. The gang was like a family, the only thing that was safe. Violence and even murder was the order of the day. Then one day Edwin stabbed someone.
During his years of imprisonment, Edwin, with an iron will, takes the time to educate himself and to train. Having served his sentence, and against all odds, he is able to build a second life from nothing, far away from his family: He works as an English teacher in a good neighbourhood in Mexico City, in a country that is new to him, and which he must get used to, now that he has been deported for life and has no possibility of returning to the United States.
El asesino que no seremos reflects on the discrimination against Mexicans in the United States, addresses the inhumane violence of the prison system, especially solitary confinement and the deportation of undocumented Mexican offenders.
El asesino que no seremos" is an oddity in the landscape of narrative journalism. Federico Mastrogiovanni has written a brave and disturbing book. But, above all, these pages show the honesty of a reporter who writes what he observes without deciding beforehand what he is about to observe.
From Oswaldo Zavala’s postface
Ni Vivos Ni Muertos (“Neither Dead Nor Alive“) is an important and extremely well-written book that examines through rigorous investigative journalism the tragic phenomenon of forced disappearance in Mexico, uncovering it as a rational and methodological construction designed to generate terror and annihilate dissident social movements and protests. Following the events of 26 September 2014 in Guerrero, where state forces were involved in the disappearance of 43 students of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College, Mastrogiovanni’s work develops a new line of enquiry around this pressing issue.
Through interviews with families of victims, experts in violence and drug trafficking, historians, political scientists, activists, journalists, public servants and victims themselves, the author offers a series of explanations for this phenomenon, to which, with over 30,000 disappeared persons, a significant part of the population has been subjected. Mastrogiovanni’s research offers the tools to think further about the subject: are we facing a deceitful strategy based solely on economic goals? What can the forced displacement of entire populations actually entail?
Ni vivos Ni muertos is of fundamental importance because there is simply insufficient material and reflection concerning this problem. I believe Mastrogiovanni’s book should be read, debated and reflected on with the greatest urgency. In each and every passage you can feel the author’s commitment to this country.
Diego Enrique Osorno
Federico Mastrogiovanni’s book has the great merit of digging behind each story of forced disappearance, telling of the limbo of the safe houses where the abducted victims are held and where the rule of law is completely suspended.
David Lifodi, Peacelink
El asesino que no seremos
Mexico City: Debate 2017
Ni vivos ni muertos
Mexico City: Grijalbo 2014, pb 2015 (Mexican rights), 264 p.
PEN México 2015 Award
National Journalism Award 2015
English sample translation available
Documentary film (with Luis Ramírez)
France: Métailié 2017 ● Italy: Derive Approdi 2015 ● Poland: Uniwersytet Jagiellonski 2017