continued Godoy, who wears his hair spiked and frosted, drives the van the few blocks back to the center. He and López run into the building and return with a box full of food: six quarts of milk, a dozen small bags of Mexican sweet rolls, and 15 to 20 oranges. "We normally don't give out food because we don't really have the resources," Godoy says as he hefts a box in the side door of the van. "We're trying to find somebody to provide us with food to bring to the kids."
At 8:30, after a stop to give milk and bread to the kids they've already met, the van creeps east through the La Mesa district of Tijuana on the traffic-clogged Via Rapida. Twenty minutes later, Godoy stops at the busy intersection of Insurgente and Jesus Clouthier in the barrio of Gato Bronco. On two of the four corners, men are blowing fire like circus performers. "They do that by mixing diesel with water and spitting it from their mouths," Godoy explains as the smell of diesel smoke wafts through the open windows of the van.
López notices a girl about 13 sitting with her back to a concrete road divider looking dejected. "Come on, Jorge," López says as she jumps out of the van. González follows out the side door. The light turns green, and Godoy speeds up the steep hill ahead into another area known as Monarca. At the first intersection, a burst of flame to the left gives away the location of a boy about 16 whom Godoy recognizes. He makes a U-turn and, bumping up a curb, parks the van in a median. The fire-breathing boy spots the van and runs up the street, ducking into some bushes next to a Pemex station. With a couple of traffic maneuvers, Godoy brings the van up to the bushes where the boy and four companions are hiding. "¿Que onda?" he calls to the group, but they take off running again. "I know these boys," he explains, as he whips the van around. "But last time I was here I was driving a different van. They don't recognize this one. That's why I try to drive the same van every time."
Four of the five boys -- average age, 14 -- make it across the six-lane divided street. But one very fat kid tires and slows to a walk on the near side, and Godoy pulls the van up alongside him. "Hey, why are you running?" he asks.
"Because we thought you guys were going to question us."
"No, no, no," Godoy responds, "we don't do that. We're not the police. We're here to help you."
Godoy climbs down from the van and shakes the kid's hand. When the other four boys see what's going on, they come running back from across the street. Godoy gives them all the three-phase handshake, which everyone in Tijuana seems to know, and chats with them for 10, 15 minutes. Before leaving, he gives the boys a couple quarts of milk and three bags of pan dulce.
Heading back down the hill to where he left López and González, Godoy explains, "Here in Mexico we have people called reglamentos. They go around checking to make sure people working in the street have licenses. When those boys saw me, they thought I was a reglamento. But when I got out, they recognized me and started laughing."
Asked if he invited the boys to stay at the center, Godoy answers, "Yes, I have to, though usually I don't the first or second time I see them. If they ask, I'll tell them about the center. Or, if they ask for money for a hotel, I tell them they can come stay at the center. But most of the time they say no. They don't want to live under the rules. They'd rather live out on their own. Of course, they might say no this time but say yes the next time. So the important thing is for me to make contact with them and for them to get to know me and trust me."
Godoy continues, "Part of the problem is, when they run away, boys usually end up living in a group with three, four, five other boys their own age. They'll live together in a room or camp out in one of these canyons. Girls will usually go live in the house of a friend. So when I ask these groups of boys if they'd like to come back to the center, maybe one or two do want to come back, but the rest of the group doesn't. So the one or two who want to come still say no because they don't want to go against the rest of the group."
López and González are still talking to the girl when Godoy makes it to the intersection, so he bumps up onto a road median and waits. "Out in these areas," he says, "the kids wash windows and blow fire and things like that for money. But in the Zona Norte and around Revolución, a lot of teenage boys are selling their bodies in order to have enough money to live."
Their customers, Godoy says, "are almost always gringos. They come down here and do their thing with our boys."
When the others are back in the van, Godoy drives toward the center of Tijuana, making stops in Cinco y Diez and La Hermita to talk to two older teenagers washing car windows in the first neighborhood and, in the second, to a teenager dressed as a clown juggling for tips from motorists.
"A kid can make maybe 300 pesos [$33] in a night working on the street like this," Godoy says. "How much depends on what they're doing. It might be less washing windows, unless they're a little boy. Then they can make a little more."
The giant digital screen hanging from beneath the arch at the north end of Avenida Revolución reads 10:33 as we turn right off of Seventh Street. Music of various styles rings out from the second-story clubs and mingles in a horrible cacophony over the street. Locals and gringos strut along the sidewalks in their best clubbing costumes while doormen hail to groups of prospective customers. Signs advertising cheap drinks and low cover charges hang from every doorway. It's not these sights Godoy is looking for, as he cruises, slowly scanning the streetscape. He's looking for kids working on the street: shining shoes, panhandling, or worse.