On the Zocalo

On the Zocalo

Sat 21 Sep

People were protesting about land grabs by the government and femicide. I met two homeless people who overwhelmed me with their desperate state. They were living in a tent erected by the entrance to the government building. A man with a hunted look told me the conspiracy theories that surround the murders of young women in the northern border town of Ciudad Juarez. They are all young and their bodies are found dumped in the desert. They have been raped and mutilated and then killed. According to Jorge, they  are taken for their organs, or for snuff films or elite abuse. These theories abound because the police have come up with no satisfactory explanations for these crimes. These young women go to Juarez in order to find work in the factories owned by multinational companies. They live in shanty towns rather like the one I was visiting in the Zocalo that day. Tents, corrugated iron, and grim determination. 

NAFTA  has forced agricultural workers into factories, maquiladoras, where they are paid slave rates to assemble goods sold in first-world economies. Women are employed because they are perceived to be a more pliable workforce.

When I returned from Mexico I read a travel book written by a woman entrenched in the literary establishment. I could only see differences in her account and mine. So here is mine.
I am deeply indebted to people I met in Mexico – they weren’t famous or important or particularly colourful. Tony, for example, was a tour guide who was helping his mother bring up his two sisters. The couple who managed the hotel in Chihuahua were just that hotel managers. But they, and others I met along the way, told me I had friends in Mexico.

I have no well-known names to muster; no professional contacts. I don’t really know anyone apart from a small circle of recovering alcoholics. A few figures occasionally resurface from my past. My parents are dead, and I have no other close relatives. 

Neither do I have an agent, but I would like to thank Peter Straus for telling me I need to write a best-seller. I do have a publisher: Shaun Barrington at Amberley. I would like to thank him for saying yes.

Lastly, I would like to thank Nico, the latest in a line of companions that started in the window of a pet shop in Hackney in 1997.

Author’s Note

Many indigenous Mexican words are hard to pronounce. Don’t worry. I don’t know how to pronounce them either.

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