Translator’s Note: El Chapo Guzmán, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, was arrested in Mazatlán on 22 February 2014. PT
By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RÍODOCE)
The news that they had arrested the boss of the competing cartel lit a fuse. And that’s just how it spread. But in the city, news of free beer for all spread like wildfire: they heard from Facebook or WhatsApp, text messages and phone calls, that in such and such a bar, the owners were having a party.
The police chief heard the news. Intrigued, nervous and ever vigilant, he ordered commanders to send officers out on a special mission to the bars, table-dance joints, cantinas, hotels and motels, restaurants, and watering places. I don’t want armed people, cronies, boys outside their hoods, and complaints of mayhem in the streets. Make yourselves heard. Between these bastards there will be no chaos.
At the party, among the throng brought by the wide-open and rough invitation, telephones were rattling nerves. The phones whined and whined. Homies, free beer, happy hour all afternoon and all night, in any bar, in all of them. Shitheads, we are all getting pissed for free, no problem. Here, in Las Luisas. There’s a band and some dope corridos. Nobody needs cash.
Endless fun, rivers of fermented barley, Buchanan’s 18 thrown in, and snacks to boot. Happy hour: all afternoon, night, and morning. Two shots per person’s not much. Three, four, five – all the swigs that fit in the punters’ belly surging to the head, making the ears of the hitmen bleed, squirting redness into the mafia bosses’ eyes.
Busy Blackberries trade barbs with one another. On the table, messages dancing around after messages. Chimes calling out each new text on Facebook, and then there were the calls, calls, and even more calls. Everybody in the city knew that the bars, restaurants, and cantinas were giving beer and whisky away. You gotta party, they said. We are going to stay up late, they declared. The city belongs to them: only if they lift their finger will people do or say anything.
The police chief received the first reports. No news, boss, said one of the officers sent to the packed out places where the young and not-so young gathered to fill their throats and douse their neurons. They told him that people were armed, but everything was quiet.
Journalists wise to the extended happy hour and the partying in the watering holes looked for the police chief. He denied it all. I don’t know, nobody’s told me. But we’ll take a look. And he didn’t say anything more. He knew that in that city, while they were downing Buchanan’s and Tecate light, some fires were going out and others were only just starting.
What’s there to celebrate, asked a drunk who had hurriedly sidled up to the bar in Las Luisas. You don’t know, asshole. Everybody started laughing. The opposition boss has fallen. The Marines have put him out to dry. We gotta party because now we can fuck El Chapo’s faggots.
Journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas is the founding editor of RíoDoce, an online news outlet based in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He is the author of various books, including Con la Granada en la Boca (Aguilar, 2014). This column was first published under the title, “Hora feliz,” and is available at http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/hora-feliz.
Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.