Thursday, April 1, 2010


Shift #34

FRIDAY, APRIL 2/ -- Sixteenth/Valencia to Northpoint/Mason -- $11.65

IT’S 5:50 A.M., STILL DARK OUTSIDE, AND QUIET. The only moving vehicles are police cars and delivery trucks and other cabs. Just two blocks from the yard, my first fare of April steps from the bus shelter at Sixteenth and Valencia and raises his arm. He’s headed to Il Pescatore, the Italian restaurant at the Tuscan Inn at Fisherman’s Wharf, where he has worked for the past five years. He was born in La Paz, Baja California, Mexico, just north of Cabo San Lucas, but he grew up all over the place. During his youth, his parents moved the family around Mexico and then around California and then around some other states, too.

Six months ago he went back to La Paz to visit friends and family, and he was shocked. Never before in Mexico had he seen people so scared and upset -- “excited” was his word. It used to be that Mexicans who were in trouble could go to the police, he says, but now the drug cartels have given money to everyone -- the police, the army, the politicians, maybe even to your neighbor. Who can you trust? As we climb up Franklin, clear the crest of Pacific Heights, and catch sight of the Bay down below us, his words come softly out of the backseat darkness, like the voice of a horror film narrator. Everyone either works for the cartels or has been threatened by the cartels or has become terrified of or paralyzed by the cartels, he says. There is no one to turn to. It was scary enough in La Paz, but he also went to Mexico City for a couple of weeks, and it was much worse there. Walking on the streets, he could see it in people’s faces: the fear. Who is with the cartels? What’s going to happen? Soon, says my fare, something bad is going to happen in Mexico. I could feel it, he tells me. The time to deal with it -- to confront the cartels and root them out -- was twenty years ago. Now it’s too late, he says. Fear has started to change the mentality of the people. Something bad, something big, is soon going to happen in Mexico.

I tell him that I spent the year 1990 in San Miguel de Allende, a sleepy town four hours north of Mexico City by bus. The place was corrupt, with policemen casually stopping motorists and squeezing money from them on the spot, and a clique of rich business and political operators controlling everything, but day-to-day life seemed peaceful, tranquilo. The masses were obviously poor, but to me they seemed content, accepting, friendly, happy. Or maybe they were simply defeated, and I lacked the proper cultural filter through which to see reality… Nonetheless, I never thought people on the street seemed afraid.

They are all afraid now, my fare says.

I ask if he thinks the cartels would collapse if we legalized certain drugs here in the States.

Maybe, he says. Who knows? Certainly the States are part of the problem. After all, he says, every single one of the guns used by the cartels come from the States.


1 comment:

  1. Saludos Brad, I have another view of La Paz: I've visited there with my spouse (we are one of the 18,000 legaly married in California, lesbian couples) numerous times and have Mexican friends we've stayed with who live there. Our visit in January was especially pleasant because we found an economical apartment one block from the Malecon(that is a broad walkway along the beach). Locals, as well as visiters, of all ages, languages, persuasions, walk, skate, and bicycle, enjoying the lovely weather at all times of the night and day. La Paz is a city very dedicated to music, art and culture, and has a lovely new concert hall in the new music school where twice a week the public is invited to sit in on rehersals of the remarkable youth orquestra On another visit we each spent a week, seperately, attending language school with a home stay. Another visit one of us spent time doing botany research at the herbarium at CIBNOR, a graduate level science school, while I taught a class in stiltwalking at the Teatro de la Cuidad. That time we stayed in a small, family hotel in a neighborhood. I don't deny that there is crime and other problems, as in any big city, but we just have to respond with "We live in Oakland." Thank you for your inspiring taxi stories, as well as your first book of your travels in the wide world and your adventure with the friend that you brought to the States. So inspiring! Maybe we didn't get the rest of the country to impeach that criminal, and sadely, our goverment continues, and is responsible for great violence and murder, but I have to believe that these little things we do add to peace in the world. Con mucho cariño, Pacifica