Latinx Heritage in Horror: Interview with Sandra Becerril
Considered one of the most important writers of the horror genre in Latin America. Member of the Mexican Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences, Mexican writer and screenwriter, nominated for the Ariel 2015 and 2020 for Best Adapted Screenplay, Doctor Honoris Causa by the Ibero-American Congress of Education in Peru, member of the HBO scriptwriting team and the Horror Writers Association.
43 of her novels have been published in the most important international publishers and translated into ten languages, as well as adapted for feature films shown in various countries.
She has to her credit 45 productions of scripts of her authorship, between films and series, which have won several awards around the world, among the most recognized are Nightmare Cinema, and From Your Hell. She has directed four feature films and four successful television series. She has been a juror at 74 of the most renowned film and literature festivals.
She is the first Mexican to write for the horror masters of Hollywood.
Q. What inspired you to start writing?
A. From a very young age, I lived in one of the most haunted houses in Mexico City, and my parents always rewarded me with books. So, the combination of reading and horror was explosive, and I started creating stories for my younger siblings at the age of eight. I was inspired by the house, the characters I was getting to know, and the atmosphere. I have always been attracted to horror.
Q. What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
A, The emotion that is experienced when reading or seeing it. I write horror because stories give voice to my fears. Mysteries gave meaning to my lyrics. Horror fills me with reasons. That’s why I write stories to exalt the imagination. How can I not dedicate my days to it, if horror saved my life?
Q. Do you make a conscious effort to include LatinX characters and themes in your writing, and if so, what do you want to portray?
A. I do, and usually, my protagonists are not only Latinos, but they are also women.
I like to make social complaints through horror, such as the harassment experienced in Latin American countries or that the American dream is not always as we imagine it.
The real horror is that every woman I know, of any age, has been harassed in countries like mine (Mexico). I like to portray strong women like Latinas, who are capable of overcoming any horror that life throws at them.
Q. What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
A. All. Seeing the world through the eyes of horror has many advantages because it looks so different; you notice things that we normally wouldn’t see.
I like to find wonder in everyday things and situations, and fantasy in normality.
Q. How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
A. It has changed more or less every ten years according to what is being experienced at the time. When living in the Gothic era, everyone wrote about castles and their mysterious inhabitants. When it was the Second World War, the texts focused on the nightmare of the atomic bomb and its consequences. I was born in the eighties when virgin teen movies had their heyday with films like Elm Street.
Now, technology is the challenge and the horror in series like Black Mirror.
Depending on what comes, it’s likely the horror will mutate as well. But it will never go away.
Q. How do you feel the LatinX community has been represented thus far in the genre, and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?
A. More and more Latinos are creating horror. The Latino vision is necessary to nurture horror because we have a very particular vision of things. We grew up with death, we make friends with it, we have parties in its honor, we make fun of it, we sleep in graves, we build altars, and there are legends in every corner of our countries.
Until now there have been great representatives in the genre that perhaps have not had the echo that they should have internationally, such as Amparo Dávila or Carlos Fuentes. However, they have been great influencers of the new texts that have been created after them.
Q. Who are some of your favorite LatinX characters in horror?
A. Aura, from the novel of the same name by Carlos Fuentes. It must be wonderful to be a ghost like that.
Pedro Páramo, by Juan Rulfo. He only wrote one novel and from my point of view, it is the best ghost novel in the world.
All the characters in Horacio Quiroga’s stories are very terrifying.
Q. Who are some LatinX horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
A. Juan Rulfo, Horacio Quiroga, Amparo Dávila, Gabriel García Márquez, Henry Bedwell.
Q. What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
A. Don’t be afraid to write the genre. Perhaps all the stories are only being recycled because they have already been written, but they have not been written from your very particular point of view and your personal horrors, which is the most important thing.
Q. And to the LatinX writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
A. That they must trust themselves. Let yourself translate your stories and try to take them around the world. Latin American horror is always well-received in other countries for its originality. Do not forget your roots; you will always find the best dose of terror in them, in their legends, in the stories of your grandparents.