Tag Archives: malayerba

Diabetic, by Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RIODOCE)

Valdez published this Malayerba in Ríodoce on 12 June 2016.

Diabetic
Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RIODOCE)

Diabetico

He didn’t want to go out. He was sad and trapped between the walls of diabetes and hypertension. He felt weak, sad. What would happen if it came out he had lost the lust for life, the sugar there is in fun, love and happiness? His diet was as strict as the order to stick to it: don’t get excited, don’t jump about, don’t dance, don’t scare yourself, and don’t get too happy or too sad.

But one afternoon his friends insisted so much he gave in. These friends were always looking for him. The partygoers, the all-nighters who got drunk and listened to music and sang, the ones he trusted and who supported each other. In the rainbow of relationships they were darlings. At the same time both the usual and the rare.

It’s okay. Let’s go, he said, behind a shy smile. The hosts were more the friends of his friends than his friends, but still he could have a good time. Don’t drink sodas or eat fatty food. Stay away from spicy things. No salt. No sodas. No alcohol. Not even an alcohol-free beer. Those were his hated orders. But he had to respect them. He had to. When he arrived the music was already at full throttle and they were passing around trays of sausage and cheese with salt, chile and lime. Regular potato chips in one corner and spicy ones in the other. Sodas everywhere and whiskey, beer and too much tequila. Shrimp ceviche in a big blue plastic bowl.

He couldn’t deny his mouth was watering. Fuck it, he thought. He stretched out his hand to grab some sausage then on to the spicy chips. He asked for an amber beer, then some Chivas, then back to the beer. He was a little drunk, excited and ablaze. Dude, they said, take it easy. He said nothing. Hey man, pace yourself. Remember you need to watch it. He kept smiling his crooked smile. He danced with his girlfriends then they split and he went back to his friends.

The owner’s girlfriend kept going past him. Her fine linen dress rising up as she moved like a wave in the sea: glistening, catwalk glamorous, revealing thighs and more besides, undergarments, loose folds, teasing. She passed him again. She saw his excitement. Her boyfriend was over there with guests, a glass of alcohol and ice in hand. She went right past him. He had his dipsomaniac head on and he couldn’t stop himself from reaching out to paw at her. She saw him and told her boyfriend who became upset. He almost managed to fuck him up but his friends got involved. They broke them up and he said You will pay.

When the party ended, he wanted to walk home. They offered him a ride but he did not want it. He was close. They shot him several times, in the dark and on their own, and he barely made it home. He didn’t make it to his front door. Back at the party they washed red from the floor of the patio and off the sidewalk.

Award winning Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas was murdered on 15 May 2017 just after leaving Ríodocea newspaper he helped establish in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He was 50 years old. He published this Malayerba column on 12 June 2016. His most recent book (previously published in Spanish as Levantones), appears in English translation and with an introduction by Everard Meade as The Taken: True Stories of the Sinaloa Drug War,  appeared earlier this year by University of Oklahoma Press.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and lawyer, a journalist and translator. He collaborates with the Freedom of Expression Project at the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego. He is participating in #agendadeperiodistas, a group formed in 2017 by journalists to protect journalists. He lives in Mexico City.

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Good Folk (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RíoDoce)

This Malayerba column was published in RíoDoce on 13 July 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Good Folk
By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RíoDoce)

They were a close-knit gang of four. They had grown up on the same block and frequented the same spots in the barrio: the basketball court, the street corners, the grocery stores, their neighbors’ patios and the schools on the outskirts. They began to fight about girls, but not seriously – they never came to blows. They traded insults — didn’t speak for two weeks — but then they made up, and carried on just like before.

They’d hardly finished high school. The four companions agreed that they weren’t good at studying. But in the city, work and good pay were hard to find. The drug dealers started sniffing them out: looking at them from afar. They didn’t like them. They didn’t want to get close to them. But that was before tortillas and chicken were in short supply at home.

Freaking misery sucks, dude. Screwed up and bogus. Everything’s whack, said the other. Whattup, are we in or not? They knew that being a scoundrel wasn’t right: several crosses on the sidewalks for guys killed in gunfire, sliced up with an Uzi, bleeding out in less than a breath. It sucks, yeah, but hunger’s worse. My mom didn’t have enough for eggs yesterday, y’know.

They looked for the hit men’s boss. He’d seen them grow up on the block so he didn’t need assurance: he took them on and he put them on the payroll. First as scouts, on the look out. In a few he weeks he told them: go get this guy. He gave them each a piece and he told them where to take him. A few days later they prowled around torturing and killing. They chucked the bloodied clothing and started buying Pavi and Hollister. Their sneakers weren’t patched any more, didn’t have holes, and they bought tortillas with cheese and chicken, meat to grill, and shrimp for aguachile.

They killed four, seven, ten. Always together, always on the basketball courts, always with the boys in the barrio. That’s how they did it: taking care, informing about strange movements, picking off the bastards, putting them down and out, quickly – unless they were asked to torture them for information or out of revenge for a betrayal, a robbery or a debt. In a few months, they got tired and frightened. That’s enough. Better that we stop here because otherwise they will come for us. That’s how they did it.

They began to paint houses. They took jobs helping contractors on good-sized jobs or as market fetchers. Together, always together. One night they went for beer. They saw some of the gang pulling on an old man to beat him up. One of them wanted to help the old timer but they shouted at him to screw himself. Put two bullets in his belly. The other three phoned the barrio’s hit men and since they knew them, they could identify them. The assailants turned up dead.

The one with bullets in his belly got better. When he saw the other three he decided to return to the site of the slaughter: that’s screwed up, said the one who’d recovered, now I can’t be good folk.

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, “Gente de Bien,” and is available at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/gente-de-bien.

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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The Business Meeting (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RÍODOCE)

This Malayerba column was first published in RíoDoce on 18 May 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The Business Meeting
By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RÍODOCE)

They were invited to a meeting. But they went with reluctance. Okay, see you there. They were in Bogotá: they did not want to work but poke around, walk about, watch the girls, get drunk, make an occasional pass. They had gone to walk through downtown and then they went to the miradero. Afternoons in the Colombian capital are rainy and fresh but they were wearing light clothes – they had just fled the forty-five degree heat of Culiacán, Sinaloa.

They arrived on time because they wanted to leave early. It was a large house, a mansion: white, two floors, tiled roof, and a park-sized patio filled with amusements, a swimming pool, a fountain, some pavillions where people could meet to talk and party. Five luxury vehicles in the garage. A fireplace. An army of employees.

Come in. Anything else. Those were the two words they were accustomed to hear when people from Bogotá said hello. The other most repeated word was calm: a strange word in a region punished by violence between the cartels and the government, and provoked by the guerrilla. Stay calm, keep calm. Pacifying words in periods of war without decibels. That’s how things were solved or calmed down.

They stepped in and an army of waiters descended. They wanted to take their jackets and umbrellas, pointing them to a small, open salon where the meeting would take place. They said good afternoon, offered them a tray with glasses of rum or champagne, directed them to a chair, gave them an aperitif. Just a little bit of rum. Not too much because I don’t want to miss tequila.

They had on sandals and wore tee shirts. Sweating, one of them in a baseball cap, and the other with ruffled hair. Both in shorts, showing off hairy legs and clipped nails, reached by the faint cries from the city, and the morning mist that lingered through the day. They sat almost lay down on the chair. Before them the host, formally attired. He was happy to have them there and told them so. He asked his staff to bring them tequila, for his Mexican friends.

One by one the others arrived. A couple of gringos from Washington: tall, cold, overbearing. Three from Cali and from elsewhere. All besuited or in smoking jackets. All with dark clothing. All with shined shoes, sparkling. All with kempt, short hair, and straight-backed, like columns in a monastery. Serious, at first very serious. They exchanged niceties then they wanted to talk business.

Before we start I want to introduce you all. The host spoke about the gringos, then those from Cali and roundabouts, and finally he presented the Mexicans. They had traveled from Culiacán, Sinaloa. When he said that, the others piped up. They shouted: From Culiacán. My respects. Partners, friends. How amazing, what a great job you do. Then they felt trusted. So they began to do business.

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, “La Reunión,” and isavailable at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/la-reunion.

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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Drugs/Love (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RÍODOCE)

This Malayerba column was first published on 9 February 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project.

Drugs/Love
By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RÍODOCE)

For Federico Campbell. With bursts of vitamins and hope.

The woman was driving the truck very carefully. She takes the wide boulevard, three streets from her house. She turns right. Up ahead, two blocks. Then left. She relaxes her fingers on the steering wheel. Slowly she opens and closes her legs, then moves the indicator. She lets off on the accelerator and gently moves her right foot to the brake.

She raises her right arm, opens the compartment above the sunshield and presses the button on the remote for the electric gate. She moves to some music. Low volume: Joan Sebastian sings just for her: my sadness begins today, you are already gone, packed away in your bags, you take my joy with you, how I love you like I have never loved before, nor will I love this way again.

But she wasn’t humming. She only let out a thin sound, lips sealed.

Maybe because it was Monday in the morning. Maybe because that song was on a CD in the player. Or because she was going to go for coffee with friends at 1100. Or it was nothing. But she was relaxed, absentminded, flirting between her truck’s dashboard, the songs, the voice, the nostalgia, and that peaceful morning.

That’s probably why she never saw the white car that had been following her and that stopped tailing her two blocks before she arrived. She didn’t see that car, and didn’t observe the two guys inside. One of them was talking and talking on the phone. Nor did she register the others in a grey car, in front of the railings, a few meters from her house. And she didn’t notice that a cloud had blocked the already blistering rays of the eight AM sun.

She moved the truck into the garage. She braked as if she was diving into a welcoming sofa. She stopped but sat back in her leather seat, in front of the steering wheel, with an mmm-ing sound coming from her closed lips. That mouth, cracking a smile.

Behind her, a man gets out of the grey car. He has something dark in one of his hands: he hangs up, it flashes, he puts it away, rubs his hand on the denim of his thigh, advances in the direction of death – life’s only certainty – makes a fist and walks hurriedly, in a way that does not lose rhythm or time. He slips in before she pushes the button on the remote that closes the garage door.

She pushes the button on her safety belt. She does not let go of the steering wheel. Instead she hits it in time to the ballad. Joan Sebastian tells her that he is sad, but she travels far and with eyes wide open. She doesn’t see what’s behind her, to one side, that blind, dark eye of the thirty-eight. It spits over her shoulder, her head, and her face.

Three blocks away, and half an hour later, two women are in the convenience store. The Oxxo. You know already. They killed Karla. So beautiful, that girl, and so kind. And all that. What would it have been for, what reason. Well you can guess: maybe it was because of the narco, or something to do with love.

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, “Narcopasional,” and isavailable at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/narcopasional.

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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Mother’s Pride (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RíoDoce)

This article was first published in RíoDoce on 27 April 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Mother’s Pride
by Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RíoDoce)

His mother followed him everywhere. At secondary school, she pulled him from the lure of the smokers, the ones who had already started to swig from bottles, downing beer. She pushed him to study, goading him to improve his grades. She made him do chores so he wouldn’t hang out in the street.

The years passed. The ones who once smoked Raleighs now hit on weed and listened to AC/DC. The pungent smell of pot traveled in the air, permeated patios, bedrooms, the primary school, and basketball courts. His mother still followed him around, pulling him away from them. She did it for him and when she did it she never said a word. She took him by the arm and tugged at him, dragging him home to the living room, sitting him down on the couch. She told him off. Curtly.

Study. Work. Get a hold of yourself, Betito. That’s what his thirty-year old mother told him. She still looked like she was twenty-five. Selfless. Undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. A housewife and university professor. At work she acted like a professional but at home she was a mother.

Betito hit back, dug his heels into the floor. Kicking the sofa and the little wooden table, punching the door. You’re always moaning at me. Get out your homework and do better at school. Bring yourself down a peg, he warned. But she didn’t calm down: he came out with a handgun that she saw immediately. She took the gun and in minutes she had disarmed it, put it in the trash. Then she threw it out.

Betito was dumbstruck, mouth ajar. His mother knew about guns. A few days later he came home. She found him with a bag with white powder. She hid it. He didn’t know where. The next day, Betito desperately hunted for it. He threw himself on the ground and began to wail. Mom, if I don’t hand it over, they’re going to kill me. It was worth a lot of money. She warned him what would happen. When she finished, he promised her that he would leave it all behind.

One day his boss called him. The big cheese needs to see us. We’re owed a bonus and so we’re going to see the old guy. The gang got into the truck and the boss looked them all over. We’re going unarmed, he said. Surprisingly, he told Betito to get out. Why? Kid, your mother always looks for you. We’ll catch you later. He cursed his mother. He kicked and screamed.

He didn’t go home for two days and then some. He disappeared with his friends, drowning himself in bottles: downing one after another, then another. When he finally went home, his mother kissed him, rapidly smothering his cheeks and his forehead. Back in the living room they learned that everybody from the truck had turned up that morning, beheaded. He left the gang. And went back to school. But she still followed him around.

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, “A toda madre,” and is available at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/toda-madre.

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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Celebration (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RÍODOCE)

This article was published on RíoDoce on 20 April 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). In English translation, its length is 436 words.

Celebration
by Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RÍODOCE)

He’d pissed them off and he owed them. The thing is that when push came to shove in the end they charged everybody. And since then they hadn’t stopped charging. It all began with his end: his multiplied, extended, interminable death, all beginning with no epilogue: an annual party held among the graves.

They tricked him into coming. He arrived in jeans, Stetson, and gun bulging at his front, Chalino Sánchez style. He said a half hello to some guys along the way, steering himself towards the people he had come to see. But before he arrived they peppered his body with bullets and left it, lying there, smoldering, reddened.

His corpse slumped on the steering wheel. A mix of blood and glass, bits of organic matter strewn around. His killers still got down from their vehicle, checking the corpse. Nothing inside the vehicle was intact. To make sure, they blasted him once with a forty-five to the head, then three more times.

The police showed up a day later, when agents confirmed nobody else was around. They did some investigating, took notes and ordered the corpse carried to the funeral parlor. Then in his relatives’ house, flanked by thick, burning candles, cries punctuated the prayers and people threw themselves to the ground: armed, hooden men got to the coffin, readied their chambers, and blasted him again.

Kids wailed. So did relatives and neighbors. They asked why shoot him again if he was already dead. Hysteria and fear. Those already at the funeral home didn’t return and those who were thinking of going thought better of it. Next day, they went to the cemetery. Few cars in a cavalcade led by a white hearse.

They were lowering the body. Pulleys, rope, the undertakers four forearms and the ritual lowering. The ropes and pulleys whined. From a distance the dust cloud warned of another approaching cortege but this time of black trucks at high-speed. They got to the graveyard and parked close. Again people scattered, shouting, loose muscles straining and skin trembling.

Two men got out of the back of one of the trucks. They aimed and fired at the half-lowered coffin. Bullets embedded in the casket and the graveside. The rite of squaring off accounts repeated each and every year: armed men went to the cemetery to shoot the grave up, upholding the grisly celebration of multiplying the murder, burnishing the flame of the first execution.

Curious visitors to the dead man’s tomb asked why they kept killing him on every anniversary of his death: they just didn’t want the guy to rest in peace.

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

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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The Enemy (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RÍO DOCE)

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

The Enemy
by Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RíoDoce)

A policeman arrived at the commander’s office. Not just any policeman, he was an officer. He said to the commander: the boss sent me. His people want you to run with them. They don’t want you making a fuss. There’s this. To show you they are good people. It’s just for starters. Let them do their work. That’s the only thing they want. That’s all.

The commander looked at him. He turned to look at the briefcase. He opened it. Wads of bills tied together with rubber bands poked out, spilled out, almost jumped out from the briefcase. No, he replied. I can’t accept. He doesn’t tell him that he’s already taken. Or that he’s honest. He doesn’t say that he works for the government and serves citizens. He simply says, no: take the bag, and remember that nothing happened here. You’ve got no problem with me.

The officer went away, crestfallen. Mouth sealed and right hand clenched tight into a fist. They said goodbye at a distance, as if they didn’t want to touch each other again. Minimal courtesy. The officer didn’t even face the commander, only gave a half turn towards him as he was stepping out. He seemed to be in a hurry. As if he was beating away on a fast retreat.

The commander watched him. He picked up the phone and asked someone to come in. A uniformed officer entered. He told the commander that the officer who left was working for a kingpin from a neighboring city, that he was doing everything he could to get into their city to control everything. Silver or lead. That’s the way they do things, boss.

Two weeks later, the commander was leaving his house. His bodyguards waited for him in another car. The commander took his assigned patrolcar. He was taking his son to school. It was early because at 0810 the school shut its gates. He heard a shot, then another, and then a hail of bullets. The guards ducked in response. The shots went everywhere: buzzing, whirring, and grazing. Hot.

He turned to look at his son. Blood ran down his arm. Even as the bullets flew, he decided to take him to hospital. The guards covered his exit, fighting fire with fire. Two were injured: one policeman and the commander’s son. Another was killed: an alleged hitman. The policeman and his son were out of danger.

The commander reported that the attack came in retaliation for his work fighting crime. He hit their interests, he told the reporters. He returned to work after a few days. Then he had to appear at the prosecutor’s office. They had already started to investigate.

We are going to invesigate. To give it to them. An official promised that justice would be done, commander. We won’t leave this alone, he reassured him. He continued by introducing the officer in charge of the investigations, heading up the special group. The officer came in. The commander trembled: it was the same officer who had offered him the briefcase. Oh, what a pleasure to meet you.

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, “El Enemigo,” and is available at http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/el-enemigo. You can meet Valdez Cárdenas at Mexico City’s Feria Internacional del Libro in the Palacio de Minería this Sunday 23 February at 3pm.

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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