Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Death does not always mean change

The city changes and I feel nostalgia, I am starting to understand why it becomes such a big thing when one grows up and sees everything slowly change or go away, Tijuana is changing at a fast rate, there are medium sized buildings showing up everywhere around the west side of the city, the place where I grew up has most houses building a second floor or fixing it to a more modern standard, the old fad of imported cars is almost gone, people are driving newer cars but the streets are becoming full, even the highway is starting to look too packed for a city that was never intended to grow this big, downtown is also changing fast, the old 90’s downtown of two dollars for one beer is going out, most buildings have mysteriously burnt down and being replaced by larger buildings that can take up half a block, Plaza Rio is getting a five story parking section when twenty five years ago you would not half of the original floor parking full at any given time.

One thing that has not changed, even if newspapers don’t talk too much about it, are the violent crimes in this city, from the late 80’s to this date it has been a common occurrence, the level of gore and explicit sadism became something that headlined newspapers during one of the most violent waves of crime from 2008 to 2010.

Why all of this? Because the city, this country and Mexican culture have shown me that death is an everyday thing and I have become somewhat desensitized.

The first time I saw someone die was in 2004, I was going to work and dropped near Plaza Rio, when I was about to cross from one side of the avenue to the other a man ran, all of a sudden a Honda crashes with him as the man is running through the other side of the avenue, the man flew a couple of meters, his shoes came flying out, I just remembered that back in the 90’s I saw a lot of shoes hanging from wires around the place where I lived and school, not sure why. So the person flew, shoes off, he dropped and cracked his head wide open, I was about to run to drag him but when I saw this I stood there, staring at the corpse, it didn’t take long for an ambulance to come over and declare him dead on the spot, the man driving the car had stopped and was horrified at what had happened, probably out of shame, fear or any other reason but he remained there until they took the corpse away and then the police took him away, I was late to work for about an hour but I gave no explanation.

Some time later I was going back from work, probably somewhere around 2008 or 2009, and I was walking close to a taco stand that has been there since the beginning of time, the place was empty, the street, everything was quiet, the guy serving was alone and looked nervous, I asked him what was wrong and he said someone had been gunned down just half a block away where a mechanics shop was, I asked him if someone had called the police, he wasn’t sure and he wasn’t about to start doing so, I asked for some tacos and walked to the place, metal doors had been shot through, at least forty bullet holes, I could make a silhouette of what looked like a body and what looked like bullets holes in the bricks at the end, I got back to the taco stand and called the police from a payphone next to it, I didn’t give my name, police came a couple of minutes later and were doing their thing, I was eating tacos.

During that same period I was working at a factory that was doing medical devices, I was in the IT department and sometimes I would stay late to fix something that could definitely not be fixed during normal hours, that day I was with a co-worker who was finishing something else and we lingered for a while until we noticed it being far too late, we moved out and found a group of production engineers outside the plant who were having a smoke and coffee while chatting about some pending items, we joined them for a while, then we heard it, rapid firing from a couple of blocks away and a truck speeding away hauling ass, we also hauled ass but for whatever reason we walked down to the main boulevard and there it was, a police blockade and three police pickup trucks lined one against the other, we had to go around and once we did we were in front of the police trucks, by chance the blockade ended there and we were staring at eight corpses of police officers, the gruesome scenario shocked us both, I can still remember one of the police officers missing half of his head with everything splattered on what was left of the back window, another officer was leaning against his door trying to pickup something, probably his rifle, and was twisted in the most disheartening way, I can still see the image in my head clearly, these people were living human beings and regardless of who their were, their profession, if they were clean or not, they were dead and had been left as terrifying sculptures to prove it.

In another instance we were returning to work from lunch, as we were going up hill from the same street where we had previously seen the dead officers we saw a car crashed against a light pole, the person inside was leaning on the steering wheel, the person was obviously gone and it was not the crash, someone had got to this person and crashing there had been the end result.

On the rare occasion when I was at my desk someone noticed that there was a military truck down on some of the houses below the industrial park, at first the military had done nothing, some police officers were in the scene but were also waiting for something, after a while the military went into a house in the middle of relatively empty lot, we assumed that they were rescuing someone from inside the house, it took them some time to get back out, once they did they came out with corpses covered in white sheets, a lot of corpses, all being loaded into the military truck, we never saw any hostages.

Another co-worker back then was hanging with the wrong crowd, he was a good person though, recently married, had bought a new motorcycle and was visiting this guy at his mechanic shop, this guy in particular had worked with narcs and supposedly he was out of it, but everyone knows that you can’t go out of this without paying a hefty price, so our co-worker had gone with this person at the end of his shift on a Friday, other co-workers were to join him but for one reason or the other they never got there, from what we understand the person in question was not at the shop that day, only his assistant, and our co-worker, some henchmen went into the shop and started asking for the owner, the mechanic, and something about drugs that were owned to their boss, long story short the assistant was burnt on the backyard of the shop and our co-worker was shot thirteen times in the face, when we were informed of his death and eventual funeral we thought it to be a joke only to find him on the coffin a couple of days before Christmas.

              A friend, I knew him briefly, who made the original iron front logo for a metal bar, El Divan de Alivia, that does not exist anymore, only in our hearts, but this person had a heart of gold, this man would help anyone he could, a true friend but a person with problems, with debts, his choice was eventually to go do the wrong thing, apparently he was successful in his task but was shot in the back of the head at the end of the heist, the owner of the bar knew something was up but did not suspect that something like this was to happen, when the funeral was done I did not attend because I felt I did not know him well enough to be there, a lot of people went though, that’s just me.

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