One day at work…
Mexico City has several areas with significant economic flux. When there are no people or sales in those places, it is called a dead day. It was a Tuesday afternoon and the atmosphere felt heavy, dead, as if it were a Sunday. Everything looked the same, but time passed very slowly, like in the movie Titanic, where it seems that the fucking ship will never sink.
Even if there was a desire to run away, as if encountering a fire, we did not do it because at any moment some cash could appear: money, spare change, tickets…
We are Coyotes, and sorry for the zoological comparison but since before I was born, these city mammals were already hanging around these and other neighborhoods such as Iztapalapa, Buenos Aires, Doctores, Peralvillo or La Ronda. We look for clients, naïve people who do not have clear knowledge on the subject of auto parts. In this maze full of broken cars, we know who sells what you need. From a screw to a complete car, national or imported cars. Here people of all kinds work: old, gay, lesbian, young, wrestlers, boxers, kidnappers, ex-convicts, drug addicts, vicious, parents and children —although, if I had children, surely I would not teach them the trade of manipulation and deceit.
We are Coyotes, and sorry for the zoological comparison but since before I was born, these city mammals were already hanging around these and other neighborhoods
The objective of hanging around here is to generate money, from whichever sources are within reach and however we manage to do it. Some characters double down to gain trust from the clients: “Do not be suspicious, it is the perfect piece for your model.” We are free, no one demands anything from us. We are our own bosses, we arrive and leave at any time we want. If we feel like it, we can go to our immortal corner. Of course, each with their own herd. Sometimes you can work with other groups, but that can fragment the ties of our street family.
The days are different and contradictory, we can work all day and produce little money or be just for a little while and earn a week’s cash. There are those who do not rest, not even at Christmas and New Year. For some this is their second job, for others it is life itself. For me it is what gives me money and freedom to be able to study.
There are no formalities of any kind, but among us there are rules— “not stealing” our customers is one of them—, and when they are transgressed, the nickname “coyote” becomes explicit because we start by throwing the bite, mentando la madre (cursing) and we end up throwing in punches and giving madrizas. Cleary! This is the street, and the street is hard! This is the place where anything can happen, even the unimaginable, the land where reason is the least important.
The territory is insecure, we don’t have any type of social security or job benefits. The only loans we can get are those than come when we sometimes give ourselves a few pesos to get out of troubles. Also it happens that we go overboard with the money from a piece that was lent to us, which we already sold and did not pay the person who lent it to us. Some pay the next day or even in comfortable installments. The issue at stake is not to have debts, as that depends on the morality of each one. If we do not pay, we are on the black list, and the merchandise is no longer lent to us and we are recorded as “people who does not pay.” We take vacations when we want, because of the weather and the season we don’t stop, the important thing is to have earned enough money to get out of the tension that is breathed every day.
Repair or parts shops (refaccionarias) are an important factor in this field, since without them we do not exist. Some give us a commission for buying from them, others give us cheap prices for the parts. There is a different treatment from what a client receives. A client might be given a price and the coyote another. There is an invisible, tacit contract, something we both know, where it specifies that for any sale made we have to take something for “us” (our profit/commission).
Cleary! This is the street, and the street is hard! This is the place where anything can happen, even the unimaginable, the land where reason is the least important.
I call this craft the art of speech and deception. Many actors could learn something from these great non-fiction characters. The important thing is to gain the trust of the client or the victim, at any cost. For as long as the sale lasts, you become his best friend, his confidante, his lover, his compadre, father, mother, brother, regardless of gender, or we become carnales from the same neighborhood. Here one demonstrates that language is essential, words must be subtle or forceful, and it all depends on the circumstances.
Talks, jokes and banter are commonplace when there is nothing to do. When that happens we are worse than caged lions. Some talk in the corner, some exercise, smoke pot, or share the caguamas (large beers), others use cars as the most pleasant resting surfaces. My place of work is about ten meters from Pedrell, on the corner with Wagner, in the Peralvillo neighborhood.
That day, the day I am telling you about, I was leaning against a car in the middle of the street. Three other colleagues were talking on the hood of an Astra car that was close to me, about five meters away. It was past five in the afternoon. We all waited until six o’clock to get out of there. The owner of a spare parts store along with his employee arrived on a yellow scooter to ask me about a mirror that they had lent me a few days ago. They had come to charge me. I argued with them about the price, it was absurd to pay more than five hundred pesos for that item. It’s like buying a gansito in thirty pesos. It’s almost a robbery. But this is a common dispute like any other day.
What happened next was unexpected. Suddenly, raptorial young boys appeared in reggaeton clothing —glittery caps, tight pants, rolled up at the bottom, and white Jordan tennis shoes— aboard a red scooter. The sound jolted us out of our lethargic monotony. Three shots of hot bullets reached the body of a colleague who was resting peacefully in the navy blue vehicle. Everything happened very quickly, except for the mobile emergency unit. We tried reaching out to support him. We saw two red dots on his white shirt and another one on his leg. They were almost insignificant. His eyes were strange. It was a look I had never seen. It was a look of uncertainty, of death, of a possible future. The voices of support, of comfort, bounced from all sides, but his countenance was the same, he seemed stable. They loaded him into the ambulance and the vehicle sped away.
I call this craft the art of speech and deception. Many actors could learn something from these great non-fiction characters.
Wolves, hyenas, jackals and other specimens we say goodbye with our best wishes hoping to see him again. However, being local coyotes, dominating this asphalt forest, we know very well and accept the risks that no one is exempt from our “hunters” watching and stalking us, and that for a vile dispute of four hundred pesos, as happened that day, the life of a coyote could end, a specimen on the verge of extinction.
MEXICO CITY 1980. Graduated in Literary Creation from the Autonomous University of Mexico City, UACM. He writes chronicles and reports. He has been practicing photojournalism since 2008. He has obtained several awards in photographic and literary contests. In 2017 he obtained the PRENDE scholarship from the Universidad Ibero. He received an honorable mention at the Puebla de los Angeles Biennial. He has published in magazines in Spain, Austria, the United States and Mexico.