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Posted by on 2020/01/25 under Life

When I lived in Mexico City at the end of the 1940's, it was a city of one million people, with clear
sparkling air and the sky that special shade of blue that goes so well with circling vultures, blood
and sand—the raw menacing pitiless Mexican blue. I liked Mexico City from the first day of my
first visit there. In 1949, it was a cheap place to live, with a large foreign colony, fabulous
whorehouses and restaurants, c***fights and bullfights, and every conceivable diversion. A
single man could live well there for two dollars a day. My New Orleans case for heroin and
marijuana possession looked so unpromising that I decided not to show up for the court date, and
I rented an apartment in a quiet, middle-class neighborhood of Mexico City.

I knew that under the statute of limitations I could not return to the United States for five years, so
I applied for Mexican citizenship and enrolled in some courses in Mayan and Mexican
archaeology at Mexico City College. The G.I. Bill paid for my books and tuition, and a seventy-
five-dollar-per-month living allowance. I thought I might go into farming, or perhaps open a bar on
the American border.

The City appealed to me. The slum areas compared favorably with anything in Asia for sheer filth
and poverty. People would s*** all over the street, then lie down and sleep in it with the flies
crawling in and out of their mouths. Entrepreneurs, not infrequently lepers, built fires on street
corners and cooked up hideous, stinking, nameless messes of food, which they dispensed to
passersby. Drunks slept right on the sidewalks of the main drag, and no cops bothered them. It
seemed to me that everyone in Mexico had mastered the art of minding his own business. If a
man wanted to wear a monocle or carry a cane, he did not hesitate to do it, and no one gave him
a second glance. Boys and young men walked down the street arm in arm and no one paid them
any mind. It wasn't that people didn't care what others thought; it simply would not occur to a
Mexican to expect criticism from a stranger, nor to criticize the behavior of others.

Mexico was basically an Oriental culture that reflected two thousand years of disease and poverty
and degradation and stupidity and slavery and brutality and psychic and physical terrorism. It was
sinister and gloomy and chaotic, with the special chaos of a dream. No Mexican really knew any
other Mexican, and when a Mexican killed someone (which happened often), it was usually his
best friend. Anyone who felt like it carried a gun, and I read of several occasions where drunken
cops, shooting at the habitués of a bar, were themselves shot by armed civilians. As authority
figures, Mexican cops ranked with streetcar conductors.

All officials were corruptible, income tax was very low, and medical treatment was extremely
reasonable, because the doctors advertised and cut their prices. You could get a clap cured for
$2.40, or buy the penicillin and shoot it yourself. There were no regulations curtailing self-
medication, and needles and syringes could be bought anywhere. This was in the time of
Alemán, when the mordida was king, and a pyramid of bribes reached from the cop on the beat
up to the Presidente. Mexico City was also the murder capital of the world, with the highest per-
capita homicide rate. I remember newspaper stories every day, like these:

A campesino is in from the country, waiting for a bus: linen pants, sandals made from a tire, a
wide sombrero, a machete at his belt. Another man is also waiting, dressed in a suit, looking at
his wrist watch, muttering angrily. The campesino whips out his machete and cuts the man's head
clean off. He later told police: "He was giving me looks muy feo and finally I could not contain
myself." Obviously the man was annoyed because the bus was late.

One thought on “*********************

  1. Anonymous says:

    Damn late buses. I almost killed a guy last week cuz this. Way

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