Tag Archives: culiacán

Drunk (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RioDoce)

This Malayerba column was first published in RíoDoce on 16 March 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Drunk
By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RioDoce)

They were getting shitfaced. He from the white aluminium can, sweating and iced, right by the cooler. The cans were putting up a fight: the transparent cylinders were playing in the water, swimming, fighting, shouting for help, screaming pick me, poking each other, bobbing under then surfacing for air.

His good-for-nothing friends looked tired and relaxed. It looked like they were competing to pile crushed cans wrinkled up like funnel cakes by their sides — a sign of their thirst, and that it was time to open another, then another, and another. The white plastic table in front of them trembled any time its occupants moved.

The sun was no longer high in the sky but its rays still seeped into everything. Like a ghost: you could feel it was there but couldn’t see it. Seven in the afternoon. Scorching the ground. Night was coming but didn’t shield anything. The ground was still hot. So were the leaves on the trees, the chairs, the walls. Summer in the city and its forty degree heat lasted through night.

One of the scoundrels took out a wooden box. They shuffled the black and white domino pieces on the tabletop. A woman, one of their wives, put some snacks out. Crispy corn sticks, potato chips, pork scratchings with salt and lime, jocoque (translator’s note: strained yogurt), bits of sausage and pitted olives, crispy tortillas.

The pieces danced noisily as they shuffled against each other. The four pairs of hands came out to select their seven. And then he felt the need to piss. He leaned over without getting up, trying to get the attention of the woman sat in front of the TV who had brought the snacks. A boy, barely two years old, sat on her lap. He could hear distant crying. He did not want to move. It seemed rude of him to go to the bathroom in the house. He felt awkward.

He crossed his legs. Then he opened them again, desperate. Crossed. Open. Like a strange folding fan. Damn desperation. He was always needing to piss, a cheeky bladder that filled with hardly anything. Hold on. Hold on. He looked at the dominoes.

He papered over his anxiety with a couple of jokes and a slow movement of the tiles. Bad play. He let out a “motherfucker” and retreated into quickly crossing and opening his legs. He took some sausage then cheese and olives and he spread jocoque over a crispy tortilla chip. When the game ended he told them he was going to his car. They took no notice.

Five steps and he was outside. On his right, four cars in a line. He passed them and heard some wailing. One of the cars moved but he thought it was his imagination. He went past the last car: he unzipped his fly and relieved himself. Ah, he said. Then he heard another ah, and another. As he went back he peered into one of the cars: on the floor, four men were tied up, bloodied, one on top of the other, stacked like tiles. He couldn’t take any more in, and he didn’t want to know. Shivers went up his spine and he went into the house. He asked for a cold one and started over again.

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, “Borracho,” and is available at http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/borracho.

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.

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Happy Hour By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RÍODOCE)

This Malayerba column was first published in RíoDoce on 2 March 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

 

Translator’s Note: El Chapo Guzmán, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, was arrested in Mazatlán on 22 February 2014. PT

 

Happy Hour
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.

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God Does Not Exist (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RíoDoce.mx)

This column first appeared in RíoDoce.mx on 2 February 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

God Does Not Exist
By Javier Valdez Cárdenas

That’s what Cholo says: “God doesn’t exist. Just like my mother doesn’t exist, and neither do my father, family, or my house.” What Cholo has is a life lived on the street – since he was six years old. Street living has given him long hair, like the style worn by cholos in the ‘80s, with loose ringlets longer than the rest of his mane, baggy clothes, a sailor’s gait, a way of street talking.

Cholo shines shoes. He carries a wooden box with him and a backpack and a bag. Among his hiding places, he has a small knife that bears teeth when he brings it out. “So I don’t get fucked with,” he says. He has his clients and even a business card: luxury shoeshine, call me, guaranteed service, then a cell phone number.

It’s almost Christmas. For him it’s just winter. December without a 24th or 25th nor a 30th nor 31st. January without New Year’s. Christmas doesn’t exist. The cold on the street corner comes for those waiting for atole or gorditas, or a shot of brewed agave. All help them bear the cold’s brunt.

Cholo accepts everything. If it’s given, he’ll accept it. He’s in no position to refuse. From where he’s at, it’s a luxury to turn down a beer, a soft drink, some taco, a salted beef soup with chile and lime. “I can’t say no, especially if I haven’t eaten.” And already it’s six thirty in the afternoon. Cholo’s hands fly, polishing with the rag over and over again until the shoe and the rag both squeak, burnishing the shine.

His body carries a map of wounds. His life is a graveyard of injuries. Cenotaphs on his sides, on his arms. His head, inside and out, made from four punches, many kicks and cuffs, two blows that his absent father didn’t give him, several tons of forgetting, kilometers of heartbreak, nautical miles of I-love-yous, hugs, how-great-you’ve-comes, and don’t-go-I’ve-missed-yous.

The four punches came from hitmen, he explains. They punched him because they weren’t carrying axes in their hands. Punches and blows. They wanted him to betray another who had robbed them, fenced the product. But he did not know a thing. Yet they gave it to him bad anyway, so bad that he had to go to hospital, and barely recovered. The only thing he knew was that they found who they were looking for. And they knocked him off.

It’s December. “Is it Christmas?” he asks. The only thing he knows is that it’s cold and that he needs to find another coat. Drugs, matches, cigarette butts, broken glass from bottles, absences, a roof, his own bed, falling down, getting taunted and beaten up in jail, another set of hands: all of these wounds from a war that began when he stepped out on the street, and that still mark his mind, his skin.

He rubs and rubs, squatting. He’s been crouching his whole life, training for the world to end, which for him happens every day. “God?” he asks. And then he answers himself. “God doesn’t exist, and that’s why I don’t have any parents. I don’t want any.”

Journalist Javier Váldez Cárdenas edits RíoDoce, an investigative news website based in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He is a prolific author, with a new book, Con una granada en la boca (Aguilar, 2014) (With a Grenade in the Mouth — as yet unavailable in English). This Malayerba column for RíoDoce first appeared in Spanish under the title, “Dios no existe,” available at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/dios-existe.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist based in the Americas. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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