Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17TH, 1999 – CHIAPAS (CONT.)

Police are all over the place here. There must be 100 cops within a 5 block radius of the town square. Three guys with all black: black caps, black boots. In yellow on their backs it says "agente de vialidad". No guns or sticks. They do have tool belts though including a walkie talkie.

There's a businessman dressed middle/upper class. Brown casual dress shirt & dress pants & gets out of a white new clean Volkswagen with a briefcase. He looks healthy and has a big mustache & glasses. He walks with one of the Vialidad police.

Help! I'm being followed by four girls! Ages 5, 7, 10, 12. They hold up their wares, saying "amigo", and invade my personal space, so I take a step back. But they give chase, and soon I have been backed against a fence! No amount of "no, gracias" gets them to go away. I think these are the girls I bought the Marcos dolls from earlier.

Although the tour guide I spoke with last night said I could have a private tour, he must have misunderstood me and not bothered to find out! They only do group tours. But they tell me to go to Viajes Nichim and ask for a Mr. Lopez. In their office, there's a tiny Xmas tree decorated with lights, little baskets, and little "Zapatista dolls"!

I'll have to amuse myself and return at 11:30. What a waste of time. Maybe I'll do some shopping. Different kinds of policemen: Other guys with rifle & a belt of bullets. Dark blue with military cap. Other guy dressed same but machine gun not rifle & no bullets. Guy has canteen on his tool belt & dark blue uniform.

There's a kid with a mechanical knee. His leg bends the wrong way and his foot is splayed out at a weird angle. He uses a cane to help himself. His t-shirt says "Stronger Than All" in huge block letters and he has a bowl cut.

The sidewalk is narrow, only three feet, so I have to stop whenever someone comes the other way to pass me. Some sidewalks are cement; others are all flat rocks. The streets are only wide enough for one way of traffic, plus a lane of parked cars. Pesos are written with a "$" symbol. So $5 in Mexico means 5 pesos, not 5 US dollars.

I walk around getting some recommendations about tour guides. The Santa's display is to the left of the big yellow church in the main square. There's a giant wooden cross in the same plaza. I walk back through the square and the same little girl spots me again and chases me, calling out "Este Marcos!", probably referring to the dolls. I find I can run more quickly than she can.

There's another dark blue uniform policeman with a fancy machine gun. It looks too big to be an UZI. Kind of fancy all metal rifle thing. He's leaning in a doorway with a bored expression, with gun over shoulder on a strap, and one hand on the gun as if ready for action. They are probably here to make sure the Zapatista rebels don't try to retake the town.

There's a procession in the main square. Tiny kids all holding hands, and with magic marker "mustaches". There's even one girl in a "Satan" outfit. Three kids ride horses, they're throwing candies to the crowd!

The little Indian girls sometimes have chapped faces. Too much sun? Also, I've seen strange little bumps on the skin. A disease, I suppose.

At the front of the procession, a little girl plays "Mary" with a black shoe polish Joseph, as though they're searching for a place to spend the night.

Here's an entirely different kind of policeman. Black t-shirts with yellow writing & holding radios. They're young. "Direccion de Proteccion Ciudadana". They have pistols. One guy is really old, holds his radio. They're wearing baseball caps, and wait -- it's not a uniform, they're just wearing t-shirts and dress pants, all over different styles. I later learn these are like "Night Watch" -- preventative policemen.

Here's another new type: a military looking guy in green fatigues and muddy black boots. Must be military police. A pistol in his army belt holster. Also two other green packages on his utility belt. His shoulder patch has two crossed swords and says "9 R.C.M." The lapels on his shoulders are one star. The guy is probably in his 40s. His hair is greying and he's loitering outside the bank. There's a younger fellow with him who's gone into the bank and stands in line with a briefcase and shoulder bag. I wonder what's going on.

Click prev or next to continue Johnny Monsarrat Mexican Trip.