Monday, November 19, 2012

Once Upon A Time In Mexico

Thanks to this gig I have called “work”, I am called upon from time to travel on the company nickel.  I am in the middle of one of these stints now.  Mexico City has been my home away from home for over three weeks now.  I have never been here before and did not know what to expect, besides what I had seen from watching “Once Upon A Time In Mexico”.   Don’t watch that movie before going to Mexico.
A Tender Love Story It Is Not
There are many things to like about this place.  One of my favorite things is food (I try to eat some of it everyday) and the food here has been great.  Food here is also inexpensive.  I’m reminded of a comment I heard when I was working in rural Italy regarding a local restaurant: “The food there is cheap, and it is good, so it must be the best”.  Indeed.

But the more time I’ve spent here, the more it has become apparent that something is going on , and it ain’t pretty.  I cannot fathom why the major news organizations have not taken this story and run with it, because it makes the fighting going on in Syria right now look like a Playboy Bunny pillow fight.  There is a war going on here.  A hidden war.  You might be thinking I’m talking of the war on drugs, and you’d be wrong.

The war I’m talking about is going on right under the noses of the citizen’s of this fair city.  Some seem to be oblivious to the battle, while others won’t talk about it because they know what is good for them.

The story is this: there exists a band of rebels known as the Mexican Anti-Sidewalk Coalition (MASC).  Their sworn goal is the destruction of every square inch of sidewalk in this town.  Sure.  Go ahead and laugh.  But I’ve got the pictures to prove it.  First, some background.

Driving in Mexico City is insanity incarnate.  It is a well known fact that many insurance companies won’t insure someone taking their vehicle in to parts of Mexico.  A taxi driver gave us shit the other day for opening the driver’s side door when getting out of the car because you can apparently get a ticket for doing so.  However, making a right turn from the leftmost lane and cutting off the other two lanes of traffic here is perfectly acceptable,.  Running solid red lights while barely slowing down won’t elicit a second glance from the local Policia.

For this reason we have drivers that take us to work and back.  These drivers take our lives into their hands twice a day, and do so with apparent reckless abandon.  One of these drivers (Mario, I’ll call him, for that is his name) would cross himself just as we’d start each journey.  At first this worried me that I thought he had to do that.  Now I’m thinking that I was glad that he was taking out that little bit of extra insurance.

The drive is a lengthy one, ranging from 40-95 minutes every day.  This gives us passengers plenty of time to stare out the window and watch the streets of Mexico City go by.  Sometimes we’d joke about that which was so different from where we were from.  Take this hole for example.
What's Wrong With This Picture?
Now there are numerous differences between this hole and a hole back home.  The first thing that jumps out at you is that this hole is not round.  Far from it, in fact (the root cause is likely the spent toilet paper tubes used as concrete forms during its construction).  Second, note that the grass around the hole is neither green nor flat, despite having been laid just a week ago.  Third, this hole is ten feet deep and left uncovered in a well traveled area that, to boot, is unlit at night.  Here they call this hole a hole.  Back home, we’d call this hole a lawsuit waiting to happen.  But I digress, and quite substantially.

It was from these idle observations on the twice daily drive that we put the pieces together and realized just what was going on here.  Proof for my claims?  I have plenty.

The battles between the Federales Sidewalko (the government’s Sidewalk Police) and the MASC are intense and in close quarters.  Here we see the Sidewalko constructing their latest generation super-sidewalk, known colloquially as the “double-wide”…
The Next Big Thing In Sidewalk Technology
… while on just the other side of the barrier we found this.
Complete Distruction
Incredibly, these last two pictures were taken from within this walled federal compound…
These Dudes Mean Business
… where elite government forces would be more than happy to bring their .50 calibre friends to the party for so much as chalking “Joanie Loves Chachi” on one of their concrete masterpieces.
Say "Hello" To My Little Friend
The MASC usually conduct their operations at night.  Only smashed pieces of rubble are left behind to litter the street, just as warriors of old would put the decapitated heads of their vanquished enemies on a pike as a warning to the others.
The MASC Were Here
However, seasoned veterans of the MASC show their bravado by conducting the most difficult of operations in broad daylight.  It takes a man made of naught but nails and grit to take on something this size with nothing but a sledgehammer.
This Guy Has 'Nads
It is thus beyond imagination that he did so completely shunning the opportunity to bring a readily accessible piece of heavy equipment to the party.  You want to talk about making a statement?
This Is A Statement
The Sidewalko have made various attempts to disrupt the activities of the MASC.  They have placed boobytraps throughout the city at sites where they believe the MASC will strike next.  However, these boobytraps are totally ineffective because of their crude construction.  They are easily identified by sections of sidewalk that rise up from surrounding sections for no reason whatsoever.  They do nothing but trip the unsuspecting pedestrian, as happened to this citizen just moments before this picture was taken.
Hello Obvious
The guerrilla warface tactics of the MASC make it unlike that the Federales Sidewalko will put an end to their activities anytime soon.  At the same time, the MASC do not yet have the numbers to accomplish their goal.  The result is, predictably, a stalemate.  Each side can claim their share of battles, but neither can win the war.  Me?  I wouldn't mind seeing a little more grass on the boulevards of this town.
My Intrepid Field Assistant Risked Everything For This Picture
More on this story as it develops.

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