Tag Archives: riodoce

Diabetic, by Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RIODOCE)

Valdez published this Malayerba in Ríodoce on 12 June 2016.

Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RIODOCE)


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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Nameless (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RIODOCE)

This Malayerba column was published on 24 August 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

#RememberingJim: This translation is dedicated to the memory of freelance reporter and photojournalist James Foley who, among other talents, graduated from Marquette University in History in 1996. PT

By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RIO DOCE)

Raúl felt like his eyes were filling with shattered glass. The tears didn’t beg permission. They began to fall. They ran down his skin. One of his children had been kidnapped. The police said it was an abduction. But he knew instantly that they were going to call to ask for ransom.

His cell phone rang. It rang to the tune of El palo verde. Its macabre sound during this tragedy made him feel ashamed. His sixteen-year old son. The middle child. He saw his wife bowled over, brought low, sat in an armchair with the pain of rushing salty tears drying her out. Fuck me, he muttered.

He hit the green button on the Motorola and let out an imperceptible tremulous hello. Look you son of a bitch we have your kid. He pointed the phone at the boy so that he could let out the terrified cry of dad. He asked for money in exchange for letting him go and he explained where and how to drop it off. When we know you delivered it we will let him go. I’ll fuck my mother if we don’t. He cried again. He begged him not to hurt his boy.

He got the money together and he delivered it. He didn’t tell the police because he was afraid. They are one and the same his wife told him. It’s not worth telling them. He waited and waited and waited. He hadn’t had news of his son for two days. On the third day they found his dumped body. Covered in bruises and holes. Colorless. Wasted. Eyes half shut.

They buried him as if the youth were still alive. The father spoke about him. He asked for remembrances. He demanded they get up. His mother was spent. She collapsed. And his other children absented themselves from the middle of a tearful deluge of blind bitterness. But life doesn’t stop and bad news never travels alone: a few months later they kidnapped his other son. The oldest.

This time he filed a complaint. The police followed his instructions. They focused their operation on his house. They monitored his phones. The police assigned a special investigative unit and installed paraphernalia for their masked men: automatic rifles, gloved hands, bulletproof vests. We are going to give it to them, sir, said the commander. He did not trust in any of it but he had to keep a handle on things. He couldn’t let this happen to his other son.

Again they rang his cellphone. El palo verde rang several times so that they could alert the agents monitoring the phone. The killer asked him for money. He promised to let the boy go when he had the money. The cops asked him to string the call out but the kidnapper didn’t give him a chance. He did everything he asked. The boy still hadn’t turned up.

More wailing. More cracks in the skin. More shards of glass in the eyes. Gloom. Yet more gloom. He shouted: pricks and assholes! A neighbor said that when a parent dies the child becomes an orphan. When a spouse dies, widowed. But when one’s child dies? That doesn’t have a name.

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, “Sin nombre,” and is available at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/sin-nombre.

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. The MxJTP has a Facebook page: like it, here.

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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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