Rules for Fighting

by Paola Jiménez Quispe

This project is based on the murder of my father in 1998, when I was 5 years old.
One day I googled my dad’s name and found an article titled “Bloody times: an uncontrollable wave of murders, kidnappings and robberies hits Lima with more fury than El Niño itself”. In that article I found a photograph with my father’s name on it, covered in blood on the passenger seat of his car. I recognized his T-shirt with which I had seen him dressed in some photos. After several years, I began to look deeply into his murder. I had an urge to build a relationship with him, but I couldn’t, that’s what motivated me. In addition to talking to my family, who didn’t have much to say about his murder, and close friends, I searched my house for evidence of his existence. Among many things, I found objects he had when he was killed (a wallet, a handkerchief, a pencil, some pens and a comb), rolls of film that he did not develop, videotapes, police documents and a notebook where he wrote before he married my mother. My father married my mother at a very young age and, before doing so, they both wrote in notebooks. In my father’s notebook there is a page that says “Openness in communication. Rules of quarrels”, from here I took the title of the project because in order to face this whole issue I had to confront myself, to fight with my past and that of my family. And the rules he mentions can be applied to many types of conflicts.
The rules are as follows:
1. Fight but be fair
2. Stay on topic
3. Don’t include third parties
4. Don’t bring up things from the past
5. Don’t call each other names. Don’t use hurtful words or take advantage of each other’s weaknesses.
6. Finish arguments
7. Keep a good mood
8. Hold hands
I put together pieces of his undeveloped photographs, texts and objects with photographs that I made while researching this topic, and both of their notebooks. The last thing I did was to research the court documents about his murder trial, where I found testimonies of that day, who his murderer was, police photographs, ballistic analysis, etc. The research was approximately 2000 pages long.
This project is not only about re-researching or summarizing my father’s murder case, but it was necessary to explore who my father was to my family, what kind of partner he was to my mother, as I re-engage in conversations with them and myself. And finally, what his loss meant and the trauma that stayed with us for a long time. By doing this I was finally able to feel the grief that I was not allowed to feel as a child, the pain and frustration that anyone who has unexpectedly lost someone can relate to.