Yes it’s me…

I like writing about other people. I have been doing it for a few months as you have probably noticed when you happen to scroll down your timeline… Today I wish to talk a little bit about myself, about who I am and what I think, what I do, what I used to do that made me do what I do today…

I came across this urge to speak about myself after leaving my parents house at 11:34 pm a week or so ago. I crossed a long road, right into the depths of a nearby park. Dashed passed a local bar which was still open. People were dancing to salsa and happy music. 

I, for a second thought to myself in an angry attitude, - why do people like dancing? I mean, I don’t like expressing myself in that way. I have never liked dancing; I have always comforted myself about that and questioned the reason why I find it utterly uncomfortable to shake my body to alien moves that make me feel pretty strange. I tried it once in London but felt so embarrassed with myself that I opted never to try it again. 

Then, again in New York I tried to dance after my first official drunken night back in 2005 but it did not work for me. Anyway, enough of the dancing explanation which I conclude, does not go well with me…

I walked passed those happy people, headed onto a long road where the Federal Police headquarters are located. At that point I was half way through to my home. I noticed a couple in their 50’s or so. Another thought went through my mind again. I noticed the man embracing his wife or partner with love, suddenly a nice feeling started to corrode my body and mind. 

When I see couples in love it inspires me. It makes me feel happy to see how two human beings can devote themselves to one another. How can that happen? Why does that happen? Why does it not happen to me so often? I sam jealous because I don’t get to feel love like they do, but that is a different chapter in this book that I will never get to write, I guess?

I suppose that friends and acquaintances know a few bits about me, but every now and again it’s nice to remind those that know me, to know a little more about me, me, me, me. God! that sounds as if I was important and different and I guess I am, although that does not make me better. Ultimately we are all special, important and different. Those unique qualities that constitute us are what build us to who we are as individuals. 

So who am I then? That is a question that I keep trying to find out. What do I like doing? why am I standing where I am today? I guess we all ask ourselves these legitimate questions… I presume that some people are less insistent about deciphering who they are.

So, in brief, I’m an individual who has been quite passionate to discover other peoples lives as well as my own. I was born in the UK but grew up in Mexico City where I learned to be persistent and never to give up to things I wish to pursue.
I’ve lived slightly longer in the UK than in Mexico but my formative years were crucial towards understanding who I am and the world I share with al of you.

I have had a few girlfriends in my life but after my last relationship, I have closed myself pretty much in fear of not understanding what love really means to me. Yes, - I know! we all have different understandings about that concept, but I overcomplicate its meaning in my head… 

Who else am I? I am ‘devoted’ to just causes. I feel inspired by peoples stories. I try not to be overtaken by my egos and try to keep my feet on the ground at all times. Being humble is a tough task but I monitor my everyday steps to ensure I don’t get big headed, I cannot stand big headed people!!! I hope that I don’t come across as one…

I think this self description sums me up in general and without being too egotistical. I am sorry if this was a little long and too descriptive about myself but I had to do it. I don’t suppose you would have read all the way up to these last lines so I am not expecting a comment of any kind, though I welcome them if you did reach the very end of this ego trip. 

I don’t blame you if you don’t read this or other stories I write as I know they are quite long and time is not always on our side. For me it is a therapeutic exercise to describe other peoples lives. I find quite a lot of joy simply in typing and archiving my perception based on other peoples experiences.

Maybe more about me in the future?

Carolina, 22 years old from Mexico City

I had arranged to see Carolina since last week in order to take a series of portraits for a project I am currently working on. Finally, we ended meeting up recently to take the pictures and I also managed to have a brief conversation with her surrounding her motivations as a female graffiti writer.

While I was thinking of a location in which to photograph Carolina, I also wanted to find out more about her reasons for being interested in this culture, especially since it’s already quite unsafe to be a woman in this country, let alone as someone who risks herself by hanging out at night to paint her name on the walls. Added to that, it’s pretty uncommon to meet girl graffiti writers in general.

Incidentally, as I am shooting a picture of her underneath a bridge along Periferico avenue, a man shouts something at her, kind of like ‘Hey, you are very pretty’ in a sort of sexualised way. 
I immediately nod my head in anger, though I did not get the impression that the ‘compliment’ bothered her much.

Straight away, I asked Carolina if she ever gets pissed off by men who shout stuff at her? She responds, - of course it is annoying some times but one as a woman gets accustomed to it.
My guess is that women get used to it as they have no ‘choice’, though I still think it must be incredibly frustrating to have to bear this on a daily basis.

As we carry on walking, I cannot resist the temptation of asking her how comfortable is it that she feels being a girl, especially one her age who goes out at night to spray her name on walls around the city.

Carolina says that she does not have any fears. She feels absolutely safe when she goes out painting with the ‘right people’. In fact, she likes it when she hangs out with a particular who has been to prison several times. She says that because he has the street knowledge and a careless attitude towards things, it provides her with the confidence she needs to paint wherever she wants to.

She has never really encountered any dangers on the streets at night, luckily enough that is. I would also add that I have seen her name spread around various locations ( good and bad neighbourhoods ) of the city with good style. Her graffiti totally stands out to my eyes!

Another element that drove me towards wanting to photograph her is the fact that she keeps her graffiti illegally for the most part. She tells me that she won’t mind painting a legal wall every now and again but illegal graffiti is what mostly inspires her .

As we reach her old college, I make a point that graffiti has a compulsive and obsessive nature to it. Once you start you cannot stop, and I seriously mean that!
She adds a comment to my remark, which is that when she used to attend college, some times she would turn up pretty knackered to her lessons after spending long nights out painting every other week.

Since Carolina would spend a few nights in a row with her friends painting graffiti, she would not turn up to college for the morning lessons, hence she ended up failing chemistry as a result.

Graffiti made her slightly irresponsible towards her other obligations however, still to this day it fulfils her life with joy and freedom.

I presume that for Carolina, being one of the very few female graffiti writers in Mexico City, that makes her feel special.

I believe that due to her passion for graffiti,in her I sense a kind of empowerment and independence, followed by pride and confidence.

I continued by asking her what she preferred to do more, whether to go out partying or painting at night? She responded that she enjoys both, although she would never again combine graffiti and alcohol, they simply don’t go well together. She says that on some occasions, when she has been quite drunk, she’s ended up painting some horribly looking pieces!

Finally, I concluded our conversation by asking her what her parents say of feel about the fact that she risks her safety by being out at night painting.

Of course my parents used to feel quite uneasy and worried back when I started, she responds. Now, they have finally got used to it and accept my passion.

My guess, in reality is that although they might accept it, they cannot help but to worry about her safety every time she steps out of the house at night with a bag full of paint and a focused mind ready to spread her name across the streets of Mexico City…

Ricardo Sandoval from Tegucigalpa, Honduras stranded in Mexico City

I met with a friend on Wednesday to catch up on life. We had lunch and discussed various topics such as the interesting work he carries out in defence of human rights etc. I then briefly mentioned to him what I was up to lately. 

After a bunch of minutes talking and eating nice Mexican food, I introduced the topic of migration in the American continent. The fact that this phenomenon, has for many decades, generated tremendous problems in many parts of the region, specifically between Central America and the USA, etc…

I obviously get that there is a migrants crisis currently affecting not just Syrians but Afghanis, Pakistanis, Iraqis and everyone who is escaping the violence in the middle east and northern Africa. Having said that, it seems as if local governments in Central and North America, that includes Mexico when I say North America by the way, as well as the entire world are ignoring the migrant crisis in Latin America.

After lunch with Robin, I said goodbye and headed towards la Condesa, an affluent neighbourhood where people are too busy to stop and chat, in other words everyone is on a mission to ‘look and act important’.

I was walking past a petrol station when suddenly a man approached me and asked me how to find the Honduran Embassy. He added that he had just got deported from the USA when trying to enter it illegally. 

Nobody wanted to stop and talk to him even though he had asked numerous amounts of people. He said that he felt ignored by everyone all the way. 

As he was talking to me, I observed his facial expressions. He looked tired and sad. He was carrying a small white tote bag which contained a bottle of water to keep himself hydrated. I didn’t noticed he was wobbling until I said goodby to him later that day.

My obvious assumption was that he was in such state due to the hardship he went through over the last 4 months since he departed from his hometown in Tegucigalpa, Honduras up to his last destination in Nuevo Laredo Tamaulipas. That is where he was arrested and put in a detention centre for a month and a half before finally being deported to Mexico City. He identified himself as a Mexican citizen to avoid being returned to Honduras.

I asked him if he was hungry; his straight answer was yes! We looked for a food stall, tortas o tacos, it did not make a difference to him.  Eventually we found some tacos; he ordered three, I ate one as I had already had lunch earlier. I insisted he asked for a few more though he was already full. 

For the entire time I spent with him, not once did he ask me for a penny. All he wanted was the Honduran Embassy’s address and help to get to the city centre so he could ask for a job.

I eventually asked him what his name was, - My name is Ricardo! Ricardo Sandoval and I am 35 years of age. I shook hands with him as I introduced myself as well.

After we finished eating we headed over to a phone box so I could make a few calls to get the details he required. I wanted to help him as much as I could though my attempts were not as successful as I wished. 

Ricardo was telling me fragments of his journey on The Beast, terrible indeed!! He wanted to avoid returning to Honduras since he said that there are were no opportunities at all and life was very hard and dangerous. 

I wanted Ricardo to get in touch with his family to let them know that he was fine though he did not have a number. He then added, - My friend, we are very poor over there and my Mom does not have a telephone at home. 

Eventually I was able to get through to a friend who kindly passed me the phone number and address of a local refuge centre located in central Mexico City where Ricardo could stay and avoid the park he was sleeping at. I also managed to get hold of the Honduran Embassy’s address which I wrote on a piece of paper for him.

As I walked him towards the city centre, he kept asking for advice. Whether the best plan was to go and get help from the Embassy first or go and get a job in town. My response was that I did not know to what extent the embassy would have the will to helping him, although my naive assumption was that it was important that he registered with them in case his family asked the Honduran government about his whereabouts. 

I warned him however about the fact that his government was pretty corrupt and dangerous, something he obviously already knew. He then said that the Mexican government was also pretty nasty too. 

He was slightly clued about the dangers in Mexico. He vaguely knew about the students that disappeared in Ayotzinapa on the 26th of September of 2014. 

We finally got to the corner of a busy road where we parted ways not before I wished him the best of luck and observed him as he crossed the road and lost himself amongst the crowd.

I turned round and continues my journey without looking back but thinking…

Pedro and his mom Agueda from Coyoacan, Mexico City

Pedro is a good old friend of mine who I have had the pleasure to hang out with for some time. He lives in the south of Mexico City with his family, comprised of his caring and loving mom and dad, a younger sister and his older brother, both musicians. Pedro is 28 years of age and eager to express his life occurrences creatively on walls at night, in other words, he is a graffiti writer.

Agueda, Pedro’s mom was born in Ciudad Valles, situated in the State of San Luis Potosi but migrated to Mexico City when she was 3 years of age. She is also a musician who has devoted herself specifically to playing the piano.

As Agueda talks to me about her past, I interrupt her for a second to find out more about why she decided to become a piano player given that for me it is quite rare to meet a person within my circle of friends whose career is led towards that discipline in order to making a living.

Agueda tells me that she was always interested in music since a very early age. When she was very young, with huge admiration and passion she used to listen to her dad play various classical songs.

Although she was interested in music, her desire was to become an actress but unfortunately her parents disapproved of that profession for some reason, so instead she ended up studying music. 

When she was finally at the right age to decide on her further academic future she began to study at a local music college located in the Colonia Roma, in Mexico City, and after that she progressed to expanding on her musical aptitudes at a university level. 

While Agueda was sharing her music career experiences with me, her daughter said goodbye to her and subsequently kissed her on the cheek. Agueda’s daughter is also a passionate music devotee who is currently attending college at the Escuela Nacional de Musica, one of the most important and prestigious institutions to study music in Mexico which is affiliated to the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

I quickly asked Agueda whether she would like her daughter to further continue to study in this country or go elsewhere. Agueda responded, - I would prefer it if she carries on with her studies in Germany or perhaps the USA, since Mexico does not have the adequate means to progress as a musician, and certainly not as a classical music artist. 

She points out, - the government does not provide much support or incentives towards this career. They think that studying music is just a hobby and they take it for granted overall. There is not much of a future as an artist in this discipline here.

Suddenly we inevitably start to discuss the current situation in the country. The recent news of the 6 people allegedly members of a criminal cell who were intercepted by other narco affiliates in the State of Guadalajara who mutilated the victims’ hands and subsequently left them dumped in a remote side road to possibly bleed to death. Fortunately, all the victims were found alive and rescued by local authorities. 

Such a horrific act that many people seem to be accustomed to hearing about nowadays, but which I cannot feel comfortable to hear at all.

With regards to events such as the mentioned one above that the mainstream media tends to censure or inaccurately report on, Agueda quickly suggested that taxi drivers are the perfect source of information. They are great, she points out as they get to know what really is going on in the country, given that they are constantly cruising the streets day and night, observing and meeting people as they go along. I myself have listened to some very interesting stories from taxi drivers, some which I have my doubts about quite often as they sound way too exaggerated though entertaining.

Agueda then recalls of an occasion where she stepped into a taxi with her daughter. The taxi driver was pretty friendly and quickly opened up to them, telling them both that he had been to prison once for a crime he did not commit. He asked them not to feel uneasy about him and assured them that he was an innocent man.

He told them that whilst incarcerated, he was constantly battered, tortured and punished. He lived a life of hell and misery. When he finally got released years later he was left in a very upset state.

He became a taxi driver with the sole purpose and objective to hunt down and retaliate/kill the police officers who wrongfully and unjustly arrested and consequently imprisoned him. To this day he is still searching for them…

As we carried on discussing various topics, Agueda was preparing some tortitas de papa, known in english as hash browns though much nicer than the American style ones I must admit. Those were accompanied with some nice homemade beans, tortillas and a tasty chilli sauce to complement everything.

Finally, before we left Pedro’s house, I ask him if he knew any more information about his friend’s cousin’s death? Pedro responded that all the news he has at the moment was that Gilberto’s cousin was murdered but no further details had been shared with him yet…

A funeral was to be carried out last night, though Pedro was undecided as whether to be present there, since he did not know Gilberto’s cousin in person.
Tragic episodes like this one occur on a day-to-day basis in this country. For that matter, I think that it’s important to reflect on the value that life has and be at least a little empathic towards those who have suffered an injustice etc. in order to make them feel warmly embraced and protected. 

I sadly think that a lack of humanity is a crucial element that many of my closest and dearest friends in Mexico have hidden underneath the carpet, or maybe it is that they simply don’t feel comfortable to open their eyes and reflecting on the fact that human lives matter…

Seeping into abnormal normality

Whilst traveling back home from my long journey  I was thinking of all the ways I would like to start this episode. 

Given that I absorb so much that I see around the city I find it utterly complicated to concisely describe what I observe in a pragmatic and objetive way without getting confused or bored and going off the tangent.

Anyways, I reached the meeting point last night where I was to see Sergio, after travelling on a very long journey from the deep south to the far north of Mexico City. 

He picked me up in his car and we drove even further north, miles from home in fact. 

Night time in Mexico City is so much more enjoyable than having to travel during the chaotic day time. 

As we were driving I was admiring the lights and solitude whilst thinking of titles for other stories related to night time that I wish to write soon; one I though about was, ‘The light is yours though the night time is mine, pretty cheesy and lacking imagination to be fair…

Sergio is the team leader for the human resources team of a company that works on healthcare services. He devotes long hours to his job. As part of his role, he has to travel throughout the country, one week he is in Tijuana and the next one he might be in Cancun or elsewhere.

He dresses in a smart suit to go to work and speaks with a proper and refined Spanish accent though when it is time for him to be free, he turns to his dirty painted clothes in order to hit the streets and paint some colourful letters. On some occasions he has turned up to work smart and clean with the exception of his nails and parts of his hands stained with paint marks which his colleagues have noticed, Sergio says.

After a long and tiring night, Sergio opened the front door to his Mom’s house for me to stay over night as we finished our trip quite late and there was no way I would manage to get back home from his ends. 

His generous hospitality amazes me. Before we head to sleeping for a few hours he offered me all sorts of things to eat such as fruit, cereal, jelly, etc… I always say it, Mexican people are so generous in general. 

The next morning, we headed to his kitchen where his Mom was cooking us some typical Mexican breakfast, eggs and green sauce accompanied with tortillas and coffee with milk.

His Mom is a cook and works as one too. I believe that she provides her services to companies that organise events though I am not entirely sure as I did not ask her for more details.

She is a devoted catholic too and believes that anything you do, either good or bad, can and will be returned back at you. 

As we chat about food matters, all of a sudden the conversation deviates to discussing the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa case. I explain to Sergio and his Mom that feeling empathy is so important in this country and everywhere else. It’s important to understand and acknowledge that so many issues exist in this country and that the only way we can fix this mess is by being better people to ourselves and to others around us.

We go in further details to talk about Julio Cesar Mondragón’s case, one of the students who was killed during the Ayotzinapa tragedy. His assassination was brutal as the skin of his face was ripped off whilst he was still alive. Such a terrible episode! one that was certainly not pleasant to talk about during the early morning. The three of us felt much empathy regarding this atrocity but we had to switch the conversation for obvious reasons.

Sergio’s Mom also mentioned about the news this week that a bunch of masked up juveniles spread petrol onto a bus and blocked its way through. We were not able to find out the reasons for this grave incident though I posed the point that I could not understand why people behave in such savage ways…Education is the key to changing this country, I further commented, and added, - If we do not educate the future generations accordingly, we will keep hearing about these awful events.

We finished off our breakfast and I tried to wash all the dishes though Sergio’s Mom was simply not having it. We then said good by to her and headed over to the train yard to catch some pictures and meet some people on the tracks.

As we arrived to the train tracks, I spotted a man with many layers of clothes who was holding two big bottles of water. His face was covered by a long black beard and looked very tired. 

I also saw another man further down the tracks, sleeping underneath a small tree to protect himself from the sun rays. 

I tried to speak to both of them to find out whether they were waiting to jump on the train to travel towards the USA but they looked scared and confused and completely disengaged, which I could completely understand. 

A gathering of families and friends was going on a few steps away from them. Tasty food was being cooked and the local Sunday baseball match was going on but those two migrants were certainly not welcomed to the party. 

I cannot imagine the feeling of frustration and dispare that one in their shoes must feel. I believe the two men were tired, hungry, sad, confused, exhausted, angry etc. but held on to the dream of reaching the north one day to try and cross the border to improve their life.

Sergio and I both reflected on the situation for a few minutes as we headed over to the train station where I would finally be catching the train home.

During the ride I noticed a man spitting fire for a living by the traffic lights. I had not seen that in quite some time in fact. It’s visually quite shocking and agresive. Just knowing that the man is slowly killing himself due to the chemicals his body is absorbing sadness me. As he was taking breaks between traffic lights he would spit the petrol out of his mouth and refreshing it by sipping on coca-cola, - what a combination… I had a quick chat with him and handed him a few pesos which would not make a difference to him actually.

We got off the car and walked a few hundred meters until we encountered Ivan from San Marcos, Guatemala who is also on route to Tijuana. From that point he will try his luck to cross the Mexican -USA Border illegally to live a better life.

I said hello to him and asked him a few questions. He was quite a friendly chap, considering all the adversities he has gone through in order to get to the outskirts of Mexico City. It has taken him 2 months to get there and was almost killed by some thugs a few blocks away from where we were standing. 

As he is telling me this with a very positive look in his face he point towards his hand which has a long scar, an indication that the thugs tried to cut it open.

I gave him a few pesos that I had in my pocket and felt pretty disappointed and embarrassed with myself for not be able to help him more. We shook hands and wished him all the very best in his crossing…

Sergio and I also parted ways, myself to my comfortable southern part of the city whist Sergio drove to his nice and suburban part of town to meet up with his Mom once again.

First eat tacos, then deal with the situation…

First eat tacos, then deal with the situation…

It is 11:30 pm, which means it’s time to tie my shoe laces and get my stuff ready to head over to the meeting spot.

I arrived in time and decided to head over to eat a few tacos before the long night ahead of me. I was accompanied by my mate good friend Miguel.

First act: A kid who Miguel knows approached us and had a quick chat. He is, defined in street slang, as a ‘niño mona’ which means that he is a kid inhaler of a sort of thinner type substance which keeps him high whilst his brain cells are dying every second, a terrible drug among them all.

He quickly drifts and remains by the stall chatting to the staff.
A police car then parks right by us, two officers get out of the car, say hello to the kid and exchange a few words with the staff. They all seem friendly to each other even though the kid is clearly doped out. That in itself would be a genuine motive for the kid’s immediate arrest, nevertheless, they let him off.

Second act: The two officers are still around, ready to order their delicious night time dishes. 
I suddenly notice a man taking pictures of the police car which alerts the officers to ask him if he is ok. The man responds that he has been trying to get hold of a policeman for one and a half hours due to a nearby incident but no help was received.

He carries on taking pictures of the police registration plates to report them I believe. Meanwhile, one of the officers explained to the man that they don’t belong to that constituency, they are in fact from another nearby area.

That explanation pretends to clear the two hungry police officers off from the issue to assists the man.

As one of the officers mediates with the desperate man, the second officer is much more concerned with his food matters, hence he indicates to the taco man to prepare him two meat tacos with everything inside them, meaning coriander and onions, yummy!

After that me and Miguel left to meet our friends unknowing whether the cops decided to assist the citizen or whether they filled their poor old hungry stomachs!

Third act: Later into the night at around 3:30 am, we find ourselves around the city centre, in the financial district, driving down a back street. As we drove down a dark road, we noticed a man at the distance that looked pretty god damn dodgy. I saw that he kept staring at us incessantly though my instant reaction was that he was watching out for someone who was stealing something or so though that was certainly not the case.

After a few seconds we all agreed that he was definitely dodgy so we decided to reverse not before we asked him for directions.

As we drove past him, we saw 2 more guys standing on the corner of that same road, then we turned into another street and 2 more guys were standing right by the edge of the road again and one more was standing further down. After a few minutes we deduced that all 7 or so guys who were roughly between 25 to 35 years of age were all prostitutes working in the middle of the night on a goddamn wealthy district of the city.

We were all in dismay as it is very rare, for all of us at least, to see men just like us, dressed like us and of a similar age offering sexual services.

The three of us agreed that we are so used to sadly seeing women working in the sex business but suddenly observing males prostituting themselves was pretty odd and strange at the same time…

Marco Polo (Empy), 23 years of age from Guatemala City, Guatemala

Marco Polo (Empy), 23 years of age from Guatemala City, Guatemala

I met Marco Polo recently in Monterrey City. He is originally from Guatemala but he is currently visiting Mexico to paint his names on the walls. 

He is quite a short kid but when he paints, he likes his style to stand out, no doubt about that. He likes to go as high and big as he possibly can. I interpret this act as if it were a statement to say, - yeah, I am a small guy but I can go big for the whole world to see my name!

While I am chatting to him, I can sense a huge passion and love for this art form. He spends the whole time talking about graffiti, and in a way he reminds me of when I was young and all I cared about in life was to see my name on the streets for ever.

I try to divert the graffiti chat to talking about Guatemala and the current political situation though he is not having it, all he cares to discuss is graffiti, end of story.

Marco Polo, better known in his graffiti world as Empy, as in Em Pee which are is his name’s initials, has been painting for a good 8 years he says. He was first a B-Boy but later found graffiti as an outlet to discharge his energy in a creative way too.

I am particularly interested in him as not much is know about graffiti in Guatemala or for that matter, in the Central American region overall. All I really know is that gangs mark there territory with MS13 or 18 St. in various parts of the city. Therefore, being a graffiti writer in Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras is indeed pretty dangerous.

Empy lets me know that in order to paint in the city you need to know how to navigate within it. Certain areas are no-go zones since gangs or drug dealers operate there. Having said that, Empy reckons that it is far less risky to be an active illegal graffiti writer in Guatemala than being one in El Salvador or Honduras where gangs and the police force are very dangerous.

In fact, even if you paint a legal wall in El Salvador, for instance, they will hassle you and arrest you, that is even if you have permission to paint the wall!

Empy explains that as he got better at painting letters, he started to have issues at home. Him and his family started to fall into a economic crisis plus, his Mom disapproved of his activities as she was worried for his safety at nights etc. 

He decided to leave his home to live elsewhere in Guatemala. After that he moved to El Salvador where he remained for some time and carried on as a full time graffiti writer.

It was in El Salvador where he experienced how hard it was to paint his name in the centre of the city; it was no joke to go out at night and try to do graffiti. Empy explains, - You have to keep an eye at all times from gang members, community police, the police and passersby. If they saw you painting, the chances of getting shot at were quite high for sure!

One night the police caught him and his mates and in order to scare them off, they received a very bad kicking and had there bodies covered in spray paint to set them up as an example.

Empy now lives back in Guatemala and dreams of one day travelling around the States and consequently around Europe; first to Germany, then Denmark, Italy, the C. Republic etc. to spray his name on trains and walls of each on of those countries…

Jeovanni aka Luna from Estado de México, Mexico. (Good luck to Luna with his journey to the USA)

I met Jeovanni two months ago through Ivan, an old friend of mine. I then bumped into him again yesterday to wander around the trains in the Estado de Mexico where a massive freight depot is located and it’s also the meeting point for many train routes that reach the north of Mexico.

Jeovanni, who I shall refer to as Luna met me yesterday at Tultitlan station. As we shook hands I asked him if he was ready for his crossing to the USA, this would be his 6th time. Luna responded that he was ready. He already had his flight ticket sorted and the meeting point with the Coyote, who’s nickname is ‘El Comales’ in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. 
Luna will be crossing the border inside a trailer and not by walking through the desert like he has done before or by using a forged ID, not this time…

As he is a Mexican national the trip to the border is far less complicated than it would be for a Central American or South American migrant. Luna does not need to dodge security guards, State Police, migrant Authorities or criminals to reach the border, instead a plane will take him to the first stop, the Mexico/US border. At that point it is where the challenge begins.

Luna has crossed the border many times from which only once he did not succeed.
He explained to me that he was attempting to cross the border with a forged ID which he had already used in the past successfully. 
As he was stopped by border patrol officers, he was questioned about his status. Luna could not respond to the questions he was being asked so the officers decided to arrest him and send him to New Mexico’s migrant detention centre. He spent 3 months in custody and subsequently was sent to a Federal prison for a month to complete his term.

His stay at the Federal Prison was pretty easy, Luna explains. 
He was immediately embraced by chicano or Mexican prisoners who identified with him due to his origin. They sorted him out with the necessary amenities and he waited until his release.

Once he was freed from prison, put on a truck back for deportation, Luna found himself in Ciudad Juarez with his illusions to live a better life crushed up by the American Dream machinery. He thought of crossing thereafter but something stopped him from it. Had he done it and got arrested again, he would have been looking to spend a longer stint of around 2 years for breaching the law for the second time.

Luna explains that he has sorted it all out for his trip. He has left money for his wife and two sons. He also told his son and daughter that he will miss them but that he won’t be long, only a few years and he will return to start his own business with the dollars he will earn. The Coyote has been paid an amount of $6,000.00 dollars for the crossing, quite a significant amount actually, though Luna says that it is in fact quite cheap as others charge anything from 8 to 12 thousand for Mexican nationals. For Central American migrants it’s even far more expensive due to the distance and all the rest, I cannot imagine the pain and suffering involved through the journey.

As a foot note, in real time, I get informed just now (9:05 am) that Luna is travelling to the airport where he will catch the flight to Reynosa. He sends a text message that reads, - ‘On my way to the airport now. All good and no fear for what’s to come’.

I responded by asking him if his phone will be on as I would like to keep messaging him to see how it goes. He responds that he will use it until he reaches the border, no reply after that so far…

Carrying on with yesterdays encounter, Luna used to be a security officer for the main train depot located in Tlalnepantla in the Estado de Mexico. This yard is where cargo from the USA and Canada arrives and it’s heavily guarded from robbers who have found a market to sell the stolen items to.

Luna mentions to me that it’s extremely frequent to catch people stealing the items from the trains. They can take anything from grains and food products, cars, televisions, toys, computers etc. He once saw with his own eyes how robbers had sacked half a carriage that carried Apple Mac products.

A myth that circulated among train security officers was that at one point in time, a full carriage containing gold, was travelling through Mexico. As a consequence, the train was heavily guarded by private security and State officers. The question remains as to who had hired that train carriage to transport gold, where was it coming from and who was the actual owner.

It seems pretty easy from my point of view to transport drugs on the freight trains, especially since private security officers, State police and other forms of security are easy targets for briberies. 
Another lucrative business is to dismantle cars that are transported on such freight trains. The parts are then sold in the black market. This is done systematically but I don’t hear any reports in the news at all, at least I don’t think it’s wide spread news. I would consider that these types of crimes might damage trade relationships between the USA and Canada, since what’s at stake is huge volumes of cash.

Luna revealed to me that he decided to join the private security force a while back, simply to gain knowledge and experience on how the train system operates, learn the codes and train routes. He is an avid graffiti writer so his infiltration into the corporation was for practical reasons, he says. 
When he was working as a security guard, he would use his spare time to mark the trains with his name which would travel all across Mexico, then into the USA and up to Canada and back.

Before we part ways, he shares a final experience with me. He was once walking on the tracks and bumped into a group of migrants who had made the train tracks their home. Their aspirations for travelling to the USA had been disintegrated for some reason, so Mexico was there home for the time being. 
As he was cruising through their territory once, a migrant approached him and asked him what he was doing. Luna said hello to him and explained that he was just checking the trains. The migrant immediately told him to leave as he was not welcomed and exposed his stomach which was cut in half. His tripes and intestines were fully exposed. Luna could not believe what he had seen, how the man could bear the pain? He asked himself.

Luna drops me off to the station, I shake hands a couple of times and wish him the best of luck on his trip. I subsequently grabbed my train back to comfy home and kept asking myself questions.

The migrant crisis in central America and Mexico specifically is a matter of huge concern, it is a humanitarian crisis that has not been treated officially as such it seems. Thousands of lives are at risk and nothing seems to improve for migrants at all.

I hop off the train and walk another 5 km to relax my mind from the hectic experience…

The military taxi driver and the 43 disappeared students…

The military taxi driver and the 43 disappeared students…

I was out and about yesterday travelling on taxis till the early afternoon. I really enjoy travelling on a taxi, not because it can take you from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ free of hassle (if you are lucky) but because the stories that taxi drivers can reveal sometimes can be fascinating. 

I tend to break the ice by asking how their day has gone and the follow up question is always, whether they have ever encountered negative experiences at work.

The first taxi ride was the highlight of the day for me.

Hi there, how’s it going? How’s your day gone so far? I asked the driver… Taxi driver responded, - not bad, I have had an ok day today so far. I pushed it a little further, - And what time did you start working today? - I started at 9 am and will end my shift at 2 am but when it is very busy I go all the way until 5 am.

After asking several taxi drivers how many hours they work, their answer tends to be the same. Taxi drivers invest more that 10 hours per day at work, but they sometimes push it from 12 to 14 hours per shift.

I suddenly let the driver know that today it was busier than normal as it is was pay day. He looked at the calendar on his phone for a second and stared back at me suspiciously. He then nodded his head in a confused agreement . He replied, - But it’s just the 23rd, pay day is at the end of the month. I respond , - you are very right! I don’t know which date I am on anymore, clumsy me! We laughed for a couple of seconds.

As the ride continued, I kept ambushing the driver with some points I had, - I don’t like taking taxis to be honest with you. I took it today as I am working but otherwise I would walk. I like walking to most places and when time does not allow it I will walk to the nearest metro station and then jump on the train. I limit my use of public transport as much as I can.

The taxi driver agreed with me and added that when he used to be a soldier, he would spend many hours exercising , keeping fit and healthy but that now he is stuck by the steering wheel every day. 

Before he became a taxi driver he worked at as a soldier for the military.
I got very curious to know more about his old profession and carried on enquiring. So, you were a soldier in the past then? Did you ever engage in any conflicts? Did you ever make use of your weapon? 

I was very happy to work for the army, he explained. He then complemented his response by adding, I loved my job and spent 15 years on the post. I did attend a few calls in conflicting areas such as Guadalajara back then. Once I was shifted over to the National Defence section I started to experience internal conflicts, mainly with other colleagues. As you know, there is a huge mafia inside the institution. 

Besides all the issues he faced, the man certainly did not want to quit his job as he had 5 more years to go before he received his pension.

One day, the Sargent under his supervision warned him that his head was wanted, that if he did not quit he would be killed. Such sergeant was like a father to him, he loved him like a son but he insisted that he had to quit and consequently forced him to do so or else the former soldier would have not seen a new day.

I hopped off the taxi, said goodbye and wished him a nice weekend.
About an hour later I stopped another taxi. I broke the ice once again with the same sort of questions plus, I asked him if the new taxi service called ‘Uber’ was messing up the traditional taxi services. He responded, - nah, not really as customers know that Uber may sometimes charge cheap fees but when the demand is quite high, then the prices sky rocket. This system for Uber is called differentiated cost, which means that as soon as it’s peak hours and more people request the service, Uber’s fees can change from $100 to more than $200 just to get to a nearby destination. Having said that, night time fees are very cheap, cheaper than normal taxi ones, he added.

The conversation with the third taxi driver kicked off by asking him what the number 43 meant to him. He responded, - 43 means a number to me, it is simply 2 digits put together, a 4 and a 3…My taxi ride was leading me towards the 43 Monument ( The non-monument, as it’s known which was not placed to celebrate anything but rather to expose the injustices this country faces) situated on Reforma Avenue, a road where many of the financial services are based and money is abundant.

The driver then reflected on the question once again and added, - Oh, yeah, it also means the 43 students that disappeared. I don’t know what to believe anymore with all that. I was pretty involved with it when it all kicked off but I don’t pay much attention to it anymore. The government lies all the time and it’s hard to believe anything. Did the students do anything wrong? Did they not? who knows.
I allowed the man to finish his point and continued by asking him, - Would you say then that the Mexican government always provides the truth so we can be rest assured that everything is fine? I think that they are happy that we, the people are confused with what is what.. 

We advanced a little further and reached the final destination where I hoped off once again and thanked him for his friendly service…

Tlatelolco, Miguel from Merida, Yucatan and his spiky cowboy boots

Tlatelolco, Miguel from Merida, Yucatan and his spiky cowboy boots

I Left my house at 10:30 am to get to Tlatelolco (situated on the edges of the city centre ) by 12 pm.

As I stepped out I bump into my Mom who complained about how exhausted she was from all the work she had been carrying out over the past few weeks.

It was a sunny day so no room for complaints about the weather, leave the moanings on that topic to the good people in the UK and beyond…

I took the ‘once upon a time’ exciting route from home to the metro, now turned into a repetitive journey to my first stop, Metro Taxqueña.

Just a little before 11 am an earthquake alarm went off. The date of the earthquake that devastated many parts of Mexico in 1985 was being remembered so the local Government conducted a drill in order to alert and prevent people from another human catastrophe of the similar scale as seen back then.

Whilst the alarm was still ringing, I looked at a disconcerted man who was waiting for the train at the platform. After a few minutes I decided to break the ice and warned him, - excuse me Sir, don’t worry, the alarm is just a drill exercise.

He already knew it was a drill. He then went on to add that when the earthquake of 1985 took place he was at his home. As soon as he felt the floors drastically shaking, all he did was grab his little daughter and run out of the house to join his wife who was fortunately already in safe grounds.

As the earthquake stopped, the family started walking around the streets only to realise the wreckage that had taken place all around their neighbourhood in Ecatepec where they used to live. He was perplexed at seeing the whole destruction, not seen in his entire life time.

When reaching the final stop and given that I had got there fairly early, I decide to wander around Tlatelolco, an iconic place in Mexican history for the students massacre that took place in 1968. I recently attended a photography workshop on the topic of that location, delivered by a great photographer and friend of mine Adam so it was a perfect excuse for me to investigate the area, so I thought.

I revisited the location where the massacre and disappearance of many students and non students happened under orders of former president Diaz Ordaz.

I shot a few pictures and had very little time to assimilate my surroundings on the context, maybe it was that I just did not want to make a reflection of what happened there almost 50 years ago? who knows…

A the meeting place I waited around 25 minutes though the person I was meant to see did not arrive so I decided to make a quick move. I have to say that my sixth sense warned me to leave as I did not feel entirely safe waiting there with my camera for the world to see. I was in fact on the fringes of the Peralvillo area, quite close to Tepito which is not the safest of places in town.

My next move was to catch the bus to head into town. 
Whilst waiting at the bus stop I decided to let three buses go past me. I clearly was not inclined to hop on the bus so I started to walk towards Buenavista station.

During my walk, I passed the National PRI Party headquarters. On the gates to the building a sign read, ‘Internet for all’. I guess it is their way of giving the idea that that political Party wishes to modernise Mexico but in reality, little progress has been achieved in my humble opinion.

I was then seduced to walk past the Mexico City PRI Headquarters as well. The reason for my interest was to do with the fact that a brave Mexican journalist, Carmen Aristegui and her valuable team of objective journalists revealed an alleged prostitute business supposedly lead by the PRI director in Mexico City and carried out inside the Party’s headquarters. I just wanted to have a peep around the place. 
My understanding is that such claims made by Aristegui and her team have been dismissed by a high court, hence the man himself has been cleared from all wrong doings. Typical of the Mexican legal system when someone is in fact guilty of any wrong doing.

Soon, I arrived at the Alameda Central in the centre of Mexico City where I sat at a bench for a while as I checked the internet on my phone. A man seated right next to me suddenly said, - I am impressed at the speed with which you type the digits on your phone. I turned round and instantly reacted by saying that I was surprised at his level of human engagement, and that sadly, most human beings like myself had lost the ability to communicate with other fellow human beings around us.

I slowly broke the ice and eased into the conversation. I continued asking the man, - So, tell me, what is your name? He responded , - My name is Mario and I am from Merida, Yucatan but I am stranded here in the DF. I was offered a job but it never came about. In fact, I arrived here with a ‘friend’ of mine who turned out not to be my friend, he is actually the one who back in Merida had offered me the job. 
This supposed friend of his escaped with his mobile phone whilst Mario was in the toilet. He now has no job and just wants to go back to Merida but has no money.

Mario sleeps at the Bus terminal in the North of Mexico and has been travelling for the past 8 days into town to try and get a job that can pay him some quick cash.

He then adds, - I have been trying to contact my family and friends via Facebook but nobody responds. I lost all my contact phone numbers as these were in the phone that was stolen. I came here with a pair of good and solid spiky cowboy boots to work but amongst all the building sites I have visited to ask for a job as a bricklayer or whatever, they have all rejected me as the boots I was wearing were not appropriate for the job.

In the end I had to swap them for this pair, as Mario pointing towards them. My cowboy boots were so much nicer and better looking. As he explains this, I can sense that he misses his once beloved spiky cowboy boots.

I was not entirely sure whether the man was in fact telling me the truth but he seemed pretty desperate. He did not ask for any money but I felt pretty sorry for Mario so I decided to hand him $50.00 so he could fix himself a meal for the night.

Before handing the few pesos to him I let him know that I was not entirely sure whether what he was telling me was true or not but I was sure that at that point in time, he needed that money more then I did. He flashed his ID to me in order to prove that he was the person he said he was but I responded that there was no need as I trusted him.

I kept on chatting with Mario for a few more minutes about life and his views on Mexico and particularly how he perceives life in his hometown.

Soon after, I said goodbye to Mario and walked off in order to complete more than 20 km around the city…

Searching for the migrant trail

Searching for the migrant trail

The week has been pretty hectic with the ´Mexican Independence
celebrations taking place and all sorts of other types of chaos, typical
of a mega city like this one.

Anyway, I headed to Tultitlan in
the Estado de Mexico on Friday. I have been exploring the area for the
past few weeks as it is a layover point for migrants, particularly from
Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras who are hoping to reach the border
with the USA.

Before heading out there I met up with Sergio in
central Mexico in the early afternoon who kindly offered to take me all
the way.

Sergio works for a Company in charge of providing
assistance to the medical sector. He leads a team in the Human Resources
section. His task is mainly to sack workers for all types of reasons.

As he explains further in depth about his job and his obligations I
find it immensely disturbing to know that he must need such cold blood
to face staff who, for some reason or another, have not performed
appropriately, hence they will be fired.

Sergio travels all
across the country to undertake this function, and I suppose that over
time he has got so used to it that I guess it’s no big deal for him to
inform workers they are not needed anymore.

It´s very
interesting to observe him in his professional role, away from his
normal life as a graffiti writer, covered in paint and talking the
street slang. At his job, he dresses in a smart suit and takes his job
very seriously. As a team leader he is in charge of giving orders to his
colleagues and ensuring that everything is completed before the end of
the day. I can see the authoritative stance and slight arrogance that
must be needed to exercise such job. I think to myself, - I would
certainly never be able to be so cold blooded to undertake Sergio´s
tasks, it is just not me…

As he ends the last call with a
client, Sergio walks me around the offices which look pretty swanky and I
tell him that one can tell when a company is privately run and when
it’s government funded.

His company was set up by a guy who did
not even complete secondary school but comes from a very wealthy family;
Sergio shares this with me as we are about to leave his office. He
continues: The guy has done very well in the last couple of years and
although it’s a young business he hit the nail on the head when
kick-starting this initiative as no other company was providing such
support within the medical field. Most of the company’s contracts are
paid for out of government funds – that’s how the company generates much
of its income. Having said that, the government still owes the company
$500,000 for services that were delivered many months ago.

leave the office and shoot off towards Lecheria. It is 3 pm which means
that it’s going to be damn busy on the road, which means, plenty of time
to talk about stuff and observe the surroundings.

Half way
through the journey the scenery changes dramatically as one can see
massive shopping malls exactly of the type seen on US motorways. Why
does Mexico want to emulate what goes on in the US all the time, I ask

As we are traveling by car on the flyover I also
observe loads of very tall billboards announcing all sorts of crap, all
or most of which contain pictures of white people representing the image
of the contemporary smart Mexican guy.
With that in mind I recall
a moment when a friend of mine from London once came to visit Mexico.
On his second day he had already noticed a lack of representation of
indigenous people in advertisements and TV and suddenly reacted, - Hey
man, why are no brown skin looking Mexicans displayed on adverts or on
TV? If this happened in the UK I would be well pissed off as a black
British citizen.

As Sergio keeps driving I suddenly feel like I
am about to fall asleep which I end up doing for a few minutes. I wake
up once again and ask him if we are closer to our destination yet.

For some reason we engage in a conversation on people who are killers. I
make a remark on people’s behavior and ask how an individual can have
the cold blood to kill a human being.

Suddenly Sergio shares his guilt after killing a pedestrian during a car accident.

What happened was that while he was driving on a high speed motorway,
to his surprise he noticed a man in the middle of the road who had no
need to be standing there. Sergio tried to make a radical turn to avoid
an accident but could not stop himself from hitting the man who flew in
the air and landed right behind him. Subsequently, several cars ran over
the injured man, killing him instantly.

When Sergio got out of
the car there was blood all over the place. A witness of the accident
came running to his assistance? Sergio was severely shocked and could
not stay still. He immediately called his Mom to inform her of what
happened. The Police and ambulance arrived soon after and Sergio was
taken to a nearby police station. As they arrived, he immediately called
his lawyer or else he would be facing imprisonment straight away. The
police wanted to lay all the blame on him but in order not to be placed
on an indefinite prison remand he had to bribe the judge and wait until
the final verdict was announced several months later.

We finally
hit our destination. As we stop at the traffic lights I notice many
people begging for a few pesos. My window is open wide and I have my
camera right by my legs so I decide to hide it until the man has walked
past (my stupid prejudices invade me unfortunately and I feel some sort
of guilt).
As the beggar approaches us, in a soft voice he says,
“excuse me sir, I am from Honduras, would you have a few pesos so I can
eat? I make a sad face which indicates that I don’t have any change.

As well as this poor but brave young man, I notice many other
immigrants who are stranded, since the train, also known as ´The Beast´
is in control of their destinies. The immigrants won’t leave until the
train says so.

After spending some time in the area I leave with many questions in my head which confuse my life a little more.

Sergio drops me by the motorway and explains to me how to reach the
nearest train station. During my walk I feel pretty uncomfortable as
well as anxious, especially as I am carrying roughly about £ 5000.00 in
camera equipment and I know that I am not in a very friendly setting,
plus, I don’t think I blend in like most people in the area.

I finally reach the station and feel safe for 25 minutes…

Lazaro from Silao, Guanajuato, Mexico

Lazaro from Silao, Guanajuato, Mexico

Lazaro, also known as Angel among his friends and acquaintances lives in Silao, located in the State of Guanajuato.

Since I only spent a few hours with him I cannot make a fair and balanced description of who he actually is but I managed to ask a few things about his life which I would like to share.

I am not certain on whether he was born in Silao exactly but that’s where his wife and son who is 3 years of age live.

As soon as we arrived at his house I noticed 2 other guys next to him, one was carrying a long knife. I proceeded by shaking hands with Lazaro, as my friend Ivan introduced us. Lazaro is the kind of ‘Cholo’ type person; he dresses like one and seems to act like one. 

Whilst traveling all around the small town one can notice ‘Cholo’ signs like South Side 13 etc. the typical ones you can see when roaming around places like Los Angeles, California etc.

My understanding is that Guanajuato is one of the main States in Mexico that for many decades has suffered from heavy migration of people towards the USA. With that in mind I deduce that migrants come back influenced by US culture, hence, the reason for the gang signs spread all around the town.

Lazaro’s house is located on the edge of Silao. As I scan his surroundings I notice an abandoned car parked outside and opposite the house I noticed an empty football pitch. 

Myself and a bunch of friends were there to meet Lazaro and pick him up as we were heading to where the freight trains are parked. Such trains are used to transport goods between the USA, Canada and Mexico. These tall and powerfully built structures are also known among immigrants as ‘La Bestia’ ( The Beast ) as they are illegally used to transport migrants predominantly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to the border States with the USA.

As we drive, Lazaro immediately points towards a couple of paintings he has recently done around the City. One is a picture of Emiliano Zapata with a Mexican flag very well executed. He says that he dislikes doing those types of jobs but has to do them as they pay him some coins to get by. 

Suddenly he talks about the history of graffiti in his town and the fact that one of his friends who lives in Silao is a pioneer of that art form in the town.

His friend was deported back in 1989 to Mexico and remains there to this day. Since his deportation he sits at home, does not work and drinks beers every day. I nod my head in disapproval and state that his life sounds pretty sad and depressing but Lazaro simply replies, - nah mate, he is happy like that…

As we are nearing the train lay up he tells me of 3 instances where him and his friends have had some shaky situations with the federal police who guard the trains from immigrants trying to jump on them and robbers trying to steal the goods. 

On one occasion he was caught, together with all of his friends by the cops though one managed to run away. During there arrest, an officer suddenly pulled out a Colt 45 pistol and aimed it at the guy running away. The officer was determined to shoot at the escapee but Lazaro managed to stop him from shooting.

The police then told Lazaro and his mates that they could kill them right there and nobody would even find out. Lazaro responded that there was no need as they were not robbing the trains nor making any disturbances.

When they managed to intercept the guy, they immediately threw him onto the ground and kicked him in the back and slapped him in the face several times to teach him a lesson not to mess around with them. 

On a separate incident not too long ago, whilst him and his friends were around the train tracks they heard a few shots fired but did not give the situation much attention. They then realised that police were approaching the area and that’s when they noticed that an incident had taken place so they decided to dash before they encountered any trouble. Later on they were informed that a kid had been shot dead at his home by a rival gang over drug dealing issues.

Lazaro recalls these stories like it’s no big deal. He seems to be so used to these type of situations all the time. As we are heading out of the city, he asks me about London and life in the UK in general. He then shares with me that an old friend of his who lives in Scotland, UK recently returned to Silao to visit his relatives and friends who he had not seen in ages. Before the guy traveled to Mexico he was warned by friends in the UK not to go. They told him that the situation was dire and dangerous and all he would encounter would be crime, problems, cows, donkeys and farmers.

At his arrival to Mexico City he was impressed with the progress he saw, high rise buildings everywhere, modernity etc. He got a very different picture from the one he was being told back home.

Lazaro asks me how do British people view Mexico?, I immediately respond, - I think people in the UK understand Mexico for its beaches and nice food and the odd ‘narco’ issue though the reality in this country is pretty harsh, killings take places on a daily basis. A past death toll report from the UN indicated that there had been more killings in Mexico than in Afghanistan and Iraq together. I think that this country has tremendous issues but other nice things also happen and we must not take them for granted, I added with some caution…

Lazaro switched the conversation over to tell me that he is currently working for the PRI ( a corrupt political party that has ruled in Mexico for decades ) in his municipality. He has many contacts in a federal department called SEDESOL and hopes to work there very soon.

I ask Lazaro if he has lived in the USA before? - I have. I was based in San Diego for a year before I got deported back to Mexico. How did you get to the States? I ask… Lazaro responds, - I jumped the border from Mexicali to Calexico. Once I was in the USA I was driven to San Diego which is not far from where I crossed. And why did you decide to come back to Mexico? - I misbehaved. I was driving like a crazy guy, I was not following the rules and furthermore, I was stealing the post. I ask what he means by stealing the post as don’t quite get that. He responds, - yeah, I would wait for the post man to leave the letters in the mail and would then take the ones that contained peoples pensions, their monthly money, you know…Eventually I was arrested, imprisoned and bounced back to Mexico.

We pass by a big ugly looking church which I point out to everyone. Lazaro makes a point of the Pope’s recent visit to Silao. He remembers how the Pope flew in a helicopter around the town and also tells me that so many devotees were there to thank the holy man. Meanwhile, him and his friends were just taking the piss out of the people who were congregated to view the ceremony.

We spend a few more hours around the train tracks, walking between the isles etc. I sensed a heavy immigrant presence in the area as this is the route that people from Central America take to reach the north of Mexico before they cross into the USA. It’s damn hot and dry all around us. Lazaro tell me that he used to bring his son to the freight yard and before he knew it, his son, who was only 2 and a half years old would get drunk on the beers he would bring along, Lazaro simply laughs…

Finally, on our way back from a long walk on the rail tracks where such huge freight structures are ready to depart to the USA carrying recently assembled vehicles and migrants with hopes and dreams, we bump into a private security guard who’s function is to make sure nobody burgles the trains. I say hello to him and make a point about the intense sun. He seems friendly and starts chatting to me. I ask him if he has had much work. The guard responds, - Not much so far but a lot of robbers are in the area to try to dismantle the cars kept inside the freight trains which they sell in the black market for very good money. This happens all the time actually and we have to keep an eye on the trains

Moravia from Coyoacan, Mexico City

Moravia from Coyoacan, Mexico City

I had the opportunity to visit an old friend of mine from my childhood today. 
Moravia lives in a middle class area of the city, a place that simulates the kind of unreal Mexico, or to rephrase that thought, the kid of Mexico that the rest of Mexico aspires to turn into if you know what I mean.

Before meeting her I was with an old friend of mine who is currently studying an MA at the Universidad de Guanajuato. He is focusing his thesis on the Pachuco movement in California in the 80’s.

With Alfonso I always have the great opportunity to reason on life and to discuss the current situation that we presently live under. It’s easy to talk to him as I pretty much coincide with most of his opinions. It is comforting though it’s always healthy when you defer with other people’s views and learn other ways of seeing the world. I actually remember having pleasant and interesting conversations with my ex girlfriend Dad on politics and the world as we both viewed it.

Anyhow, I finally arrived to the meeting point on the orange metro line. I got there 30 minutes late, typical to arrive late in Mexico… What a disgrace.

We walked down the properly paved street and start talking. I instinctively ask Moravia, - What do you think about Mexico right now?

She responds, - It’s pretty bad. I don’t see things changing. I see more inequality, no job opportunities, I sometimes struggle to get by. Crime is on the rise. I mean, just by my house the police located and shut down a safe house where victims of kidnapping were kept. On the other side of the road another safe house used for human trafficking was also found by the police.

I stopped her and asked if that was really true. I was kind of surprised given that both these houses are in a very nice and prosperous part of central Mexico. 
I asked her to show me those places as I was still slightly unsure on whether the houses existed or if she was just making it up ( unfair of me to doubt her explanation I must say).

We found a nice place to eat pizza so we sat down and ordered. 
I was curious to know more about her views on the country so I carried on by asking her, - So Moravia, what made you open your eyes to the situation in the country? I mean, you used to be a different person as I remember, not quite into caring much about the country’s problems. What made you change?

Moravia responded, - I have always been concerned about things. My parents always taught me and my brother about the problem that the country suffered from so being politicised is not new to me. 
I deduce however that she is much more immersed in the real issues as she is another one of the many affected citizens who have realised that the present policies that this government has introduced are really mashing up stability and prosperity, certainly among the lower and middle class and even the upper Mexican class… Every one seems to be really pissed off with the President’s inept decisions.

Moravia and I touch on her life at present, her job and the idea of love . She responds, - I am not working right now, in fact I have been unemployed since last year but it was my decision to quit my job. I used to work in advertising but after a few years working in that industry I ended hating it. Were you doing alright financially? - Yeah!! I was earning quite good money and had the opportunity to travel once or twice to Europe but I ended up feeling miserably at the same time due to the endless hours of working non stop.
Now, although I am pretty broke I am pretty content with how I am and feel. I would like to become a writer but it’s hard to immerse myself in that world and get paid.

As Moravia keeps chatting I sense as if she is not entirely happy with herself . She talks about loneliness in life and I perceive her feeling that way. I don’t blame her for feeling like that as this is a phenomenon that many, including myself feel. Even if we might have family and friends around us we cannot help but to feel that way at times.

As we leave the pizza place I find 100 pesos on the ground, my lucky day indeed!! We reach an ice cream shop and spend the money on two lovely banana and toffee ice creams. We finally walk back towards the safe house she promised to show to me so I can take a few shots.

The house looks normal but on the door front it has a government sign that reads, ‘Secuestro’ meaning Kidnapping to indicate that the house is being investigated for that serious crime. I take a quick look through the gap and a cold chill runs down my spine.

So many thoughts run down my mind. It’s a mess inside and it looks really scary. Just knowing that someone or many were locked in that house freaks me out. I wonder what happened with the people? did they get rescued by the police? 
These kind of safe houses are located all over the damn country.

Moravia walks me to the metro station where I grab the train on route back home.

On my way back, a young man jumps on the bus to recite a few stories in order to earn a few pesos. He announces his intentions in a loud voice and begins with the first one which I cannot quite get. The second story is based on how a bunch of mice elect a cat to be their President but the cat turns to be a villain. They re-elect a black cat who turns out to be as bad as the first one. In a desperate attempt they keep electing cats until a rebel mouse poses the idea to elect one of them to run their kingdom but gets sent to prison for being a dissident to the system. The third story is a poem by Eduardo Galeano.

I smiled at some of his smart remarks and hand him 5 pesos and flash a ‘thumbs-up’ to him.

By the time he finished his act on the bus, the driver turned his narco corridos music back up. It was so surreal to drastically switch the context from a politicised participation from the young man to suddenly being forced to hear a song that talked about drug dealings and sex and the fact that the singer loves to fight when he is drunk, blah, blah, blah… utter trash to the passengers ears.

The politicised young man thanked the driver, jumped off the bus and continued his journey…

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