Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Dec. 20
- Community Blog
- Beyond The Big Metal Fence
"There it was. The unbearable thing was not the fear that the Great Spirit had forsaken man, nor even that in granting awareness of death, He had made man’s hope ridiculous, but that from the beginning He had made no real distinction between the mindless animals and mankind."
~ Peter Matthiessen, At Play In The Fields Of The Lord, 1965.
"Quien va ganar para su presidente, pues?" he asked, his accent smacked of that connection with old-school Mexican politics. A PRISTA perhaps. The Institutional Revolutionary Party, the old party of Mexico that once ruled as a monarchy; every six years there was no question of who would win, only by how much.
The taxi shook, rattled by uneven concrete and pavement, augmented by a bad suspension and velocity that was very unsafe for the condition of the road. The road, the via rapida, was one of the best in all of Tijuana, but by standards of the United States of America we were exceeding the point of a secure passage by some thirty miles per hour or so. My driver, like most, was surely aware of this and couldn't have cared less. Most taxi drivers couldn't care less.
And he wanted to know who I thought would win the election in the United States of America that November, this was important to him for some reason.
Until Colossio was murdered in nineteen hundred and ninety-four, and Zedillo became the president by accident, each successor to the Mexican presidency was handpicked. Zedillo served his six years and refused to name his preference to succeed him from his own party, opening the door to a two and a half party system, not unlike that which is reeking from the other side of border, a no-win situation for the people of the United States of America.
And a no-win situation for the people of Mexico. And maybe the whole world.
The dim light of the exit sign was barely visible from one hundred feet, and he almost missed it in spite of my instructions from the back seat. The cab lurched and yawed, finally straightening and slowing with the traffic ahead. I told him that I didn’t know who would win the election, and that I no longer cared much for politics. I told him that I no longer believed that any politician, political party, or very much of anything would change the course of humankind for the better.
The driver rattled a toothpick around in his mouth, eyes straight ahead, and then he silently inserted a cassette tape into his player in the dash, abruptly replacing the radio’s discussion of Mexican politics with the sound of Norteño banda music.
He had had enough of me.
I was living here in Tijuana in nineteen hundred and ninety-four. I worked near Oceanside, California, during the swing-shift, and one night I came home and wondered if I was the only person still alive in Mexico.
It started out like every other evening commute, I left at eleven in the evening and started the two-hour journey South toward Mexico. I entered into Mexico and there was no traffic; no cars: no pedestrians; nothing. I turned the radio dial to a news station in English and learned that Luis Donaldo Colossio had been shot dead, and then I turned the dial to a Mexican station and learned that all efforts to save him in Clinica Viente had failed. I learned that all of Tijuana was afraid, what would the rest of Mexico think of the Tijuanenses? Their reputation was already rotten, a city of spoiled gimmicks and grotesque sin, where the prostitutes and drug addicts had not even the sense of shame to stay off of the main streets.
Any Mexicana who lived in Tijuana was a whore, this is what the old women in Southern Mexico would say to their children.
And while this is only the stuff of reputation and sordid legend, the assassination of the President-pre-elect of Mexico was real and dangerous and poisonous. Colossio’s assassination to this day is even more suspicious, comparatively speaking, than that of John F. Kennedy; and there are far more tangled conspiracy theories of the former than of the latter.
What do I think? I think that Kennedy was assassinated by the Mafia. I think that Colossio was murdered by a young man with a bad mix of brain-chemicals.
Tijuana, like Dallas, recovered quite nicely. Until September eleventh, two thousand and one. Until the mask of religious ideology once again appeared in order to hide humankind’s contemptuous fear of humankind, that they were somehow suddenly mortal and forgotten by their Gods; and that righteousness and desperation could possibly mix to form a volatile virus that would infect the entire human race. Every death in the name of a God is an opportunity for a survivor to gain power. Every sacrifice made in the name of a God elevates another bad mix of brain-chemicals closer to the top of the food chain.
The big metal fence that separates the United States of America and Mexico grew like never before. Tijuana has never been the same since that happened. Tijuana will never be the same since that happened.
It takes money to make money, that’s another gimmick that works on the streets of any country, any financial institution, religious organization, and so on.
As I walked down Calle Madera toward Calle Sexta, he approached with his hands in plain view.
"Excuse me, do you speak English?"
In one hand he held a ten-dollar bill and a few one-dollar bills, in the other he held a fifty-peso bill, it was the first thing that I saw, the thing that he made sure that I saw. In an instant I knew what this was, a gimmick, a scam of micro-epic proportions. I wanted to tell him that I did not speak English, and then I wanted to tell him that he should give his money to the first crack-addict that he runs into, but I kept walking and ignored him.
He would have told me that his friend or brother or cousin was in jail in the stinking hellish bowels of Tijuana and he was, as a good Christian and a shining example of American citizenship, attempting to raise money to bail him out. The proof that this was not just another bum begging for a living was that he actually had some money, certainly enough for drugs or booze if that was really what he was after.
In fact, that really is what he is after. He is just smart enough to leave himself the initial stake. He is a good enough gold-miner to not sell his pan and his mule when he goes into town to exchange his dust for dollars.
Squirrels will not eat their hoarded nuts until they can no longer forage in their environment. This is what happens.
I reached the Dandy del Sur shortly after that and I told Charlie that if any stranger on the streets of Tijuana asks him if he speaks English, just tell them no. We became entertained by the television, and the tight-fitting top that the large-breasted Angie wears in order to get bigger tips, and the football point-spreads and so on.
We drank fermented fruit and vegetable matter like sometimes the monkeys do in the rain forests in other parts of the world where humankind’s gimmicks do not interfere with such natural provisions. Except that the monkeys can’t order up some tacos de adobada on the way home.
Except for that.