Two Weeks in the Capital

In Mexico, not even the oligarchs are happy

Sofía Garfias, The Highest Palpitation (as part of The Vacuum Series). 2014, analogue photograph. Courtesy of the artist.

Contingencia Ambiental

The rainy season is late this year, which means the exhaust of millions of cars remains in the atmosphere. The air tastes of metal — it burns your eyes, stings your throat. Mornings are filled with rituals: Vaseline for your lips, small doses of antihistamines, a saltwater spray for your nostrils. The government issues frequent advisories against outdoor exercise. Jogging for an hour in Mexico City, a concerned voice repeats on the radio, harms your lungs as much as a pack of cigarettes. That last claim seems dubious to you, but you never liked running anyway. The absence of rain also implies the absence of clouds, which in turn implies it’s 90 degrees in the shade. This gives you two choices: close your windows and stew in your own sweat or open them and drown in your own mucus. Either way, you suffocate.


CAFÉ GRATIS CON SU DESAYUNO

Most of the drug lords who wanted to kill you are now dead or in prison. A decade ago, a generation of cartel bosses would have given their firstborns to dump your body on the steps of the ministry of justice. But your father doesn’t work there anymore. Still, the government assigns you bodyguards as a matter of protocol. The new guy is called Moises; he’s a midranking officer of the Federal Police. One day, you buy him breakfast. You discover he’s going to night school for a graduate degree in political theory. You ask who his favorite thinker is. He answers without hesitation: Gramsci.

Over café con leche, he tells you about his previous assignment: guarding a senator in a northern state. Once, he says, his team escorted their principal to a party at a hacienda deep in the desert. On the way back, their convoy was stopped at a military checkpoint. It quickly became apparent that the men in uniform were not in fact government soldiers. The car with the principal sped off, but Moises and his partner were unable to get away. Dozens of armed men surrounded them. His partner wanted to hand over their weapons and surrender, but Moises knew better.

“I figured we were going to die no matter what,” he says. “If you surrender they’ll just torture you for information and leave your body somewhere in the sierra. And if they don’t find your body, you’re presumed missing, and your wife doesn’t get her widow’s pension. So it’s always better to go down right away. Besides, that way you can take a few of the fuckers with you.”

One of the men then walked to Moises’s side of the car and tried to open the door. Moises kicked it as hard as he could, hitting the narco in the face.

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