Mexico: Another Fine Day in Ciudad Juárez (Guest Writer)
My good friend Sergio Sandoval-Goodfellow has been at it again. This is fresh news. For those of you who wonder if the name is a nom de plume, the answer is, “Perhaps.”
Sergio enjoys sending boxes of gold bars around the country via UPS, so you can deduce his line of work from that salient bit of information.
I work in Juárez and go back and forth a lot … sometime daily, sometime weekly, sometimes monthly. Since the Troubles have begun most of my friends tell me not to go: others ask me if I’m not afraid, and yet others tell me about cousins that have disappeared or fathers ransomed. I always reply that I’m not afraid but cautious. I like to know where the trouble is to head the other way.
1) Rick Perry is not very popular in Juarez, either
I fell in love with Mexico in my youth. I travelled all over and was invariably greeted by people with an open open heart. They are generous so you should be generous too. Yes, you had to be careful about transitos, policemen and bureaucrats looking for a little extra … una nada … una mordida … but if you learnt the dance, learnt how to “show respect”, you didn’t have to pay.
Today I was about to enter my office when one of three men dressed in something close to municipal police uniforms lounging out side mad the off-handed comment “Gabacho ó mexicano”. Concerned that I was about to be “levantado” I did not pay him the attention he felt he deserved. They surrounded me and the same one pulled at my clothes and became abusive. At no time did he ask for id or act like a policeman. He expressed concern because I didn’t show him the respect he felt he and his uniform deserved and then launched into a series of diatribes about the “Migra” and how the “Migra” mistreated everyone. Did he ever get out of the wrong side of the bed! Needless to say, he then wanted in to my back pack which he searched and on finding nothing of interest gave it back and then accused me of trying to hit him with the said back pack. At that point I started banging on the office window in the hope that someone inside would look out and see what was going on. No such luck. Everyone was in the back. Then it’s up against the wall, on with the hand cuffs and into the police pick up. Meanwhile I yelled to a couple of people on the street that I have been saying “Hello” to for the last ten years but they made themselves scarce. Who can blame them!
Switched hand cuffs and off to see the judge at Calle Oro and Deiciséis de Septiembre. Down the stairs to the basement. Hats off and stand over there. Then over to an unlit passage with a camera and I was asked my name which while easy in English is difficult in Spanish so it took time but no photo. Then it was “Over there, next to the other Guero”… We chatted – if that is the word – and discovered that we knew people in common.
2) The door on the left in shade is where those in custody enter the cop shop/courthouse on Oro y 16 Sept
I did my best to stay detached. I wish I’d learnt to how to meditate. If it was ever the time, now was the time! Anyhow, it would all work out in the end.
Ten men were called up in a bunch and dealt with. I couldn’t hear what was going except the judge berating them. The “other guero” was called up and the judge didn’t like his story. Well, more than that, he didn’t like his attitude. They were both trying to speak over each other. No facts were established nor … Well nothing was clear. He was sent into the doctors and then disappeared with a glimpse thru another door. Ten or twelve other men and the woman associated with the “Other Guero” were called up. Again I couldn’t hear what was going on other than IDs were being asked for and given or not as the case may be. He said something to the woman and she hurried out the IN-door. The judge began to curse them out with a “chingada aqui and a chingada alla”. They all look appropriately repentant and were sent to stand against wall.
When it was my time before the judge I listen to his monologue; observation of his relationships with other “clients” made it clear he didn’t like to be interrupted. It was his courtroom and that’s that! Once I nodded acceptance of his ground rules, we had a back and forth while I explained what had happened, how the policeman had behaved and how I was quite concerned about being kidnapped. He then lectured me that there were forms to follow, procedures to follow and how I should respect the proper authorities to which I cautiously agreed. We almost parted friends.
He signed something and again it was up against the wall. Then into see the doctor who checked me out as best she could from a distance of roughly ten feet. She asked me my age, a couple of basic health questions and if I had been beaten. No I hadn’t. No bumps. No bruises, not even a heavy hand. And again, over against the wall. Then one of the policemen waved a paper in my face and sort of pointed to the IN – door.
Another policeman opened the door and I hoped up the steps into the light again. May be it was four hours from start to finish. I was lucky. I still had what little money I started the day with. My camera, my … my everything. Yes, I was very lucky!
Then I headed back to the office half-concerned and half anticipating that I would run into the Terrible Three but no such luck. My office mates asked me for names but I never looked at or for the name tags of the Terrible Three and the police in the tank didn’t have name tags and neither did the judge. Neither did I look at or memorize the number of the pick up that took me to the tank. I’ll do better next time. Whoa … I don’t want a next time.
All of this because a cop was rude and, evidently, wanted to stick it to a gabacho! Moral of this story … don’t be a gabacho and if you run across a cop with his head up his ass, don’t let him know you know, because he’s the only one that doesn’t know because he’s up to his eye balls in shit.
If I was lucky, what happened to those that weren’t so lucky?