This morning I sat in front of my casita, reading a book, sipping tea, enjoying the breeze on my face, when suddenly five truckloads of Mazatlan Policia screeched around the corner and, positioning the trucks to face both directions, blocked the entrance of our street.
Without hesitation, I abandoned book, chair and teacup and melted through the screen door into the inner recesses of my apartment. I didn’t bother to lock the screen or shut the door. Why would I? These people could go where they wanted. I wasn’t going to stop them. There were at least 40, maybe 50 men and women. Some dispersed around the corners and down the street, searching empty lots and checking each entrance. One of them looked through my screen. Evidently I didn’t fit the profile.
Four apartment entrances front onto our street. At least two dozen fully uniformed federal police, hardware hanging off their bodies, heavily armed with pistols and machine guns, milled about in the street and in front of our doors. They wore face masks to make identification and retaliation difficult.
My neighbor Ted softly called out to me by my back door, “Pssst, Sondra. Do you see what is happening outside?”
I joined Ted out in the back patio, an area we share. We both showed the effects of adrenalin rush. Well, in other words, fear.
In conversations over these last few months Ted and I have rolled our eyes at the exaggerated U.S. news reports of crime and violence here in Mazatlan. We each have been in and out of every neighborhood of the city. Never have we felt unsafe. Never mind that both of us are old enough to avoid hanging out in low places.
But I have got to tell you, that between us, in the next few minutes, the rumors flew. “It’s got to be drugs.” “Which house do you think is the target.” “Do you think they will search every house?” “What will we do if there is a shoot out?” “I wonder if it is the neighbor down the street who tries to cause us trouble.” “She got in a pickup with Arizona plates four days ago and hasn’t been home since.” “Ah ha.” “Should we stay back here in case bullets start flying?”
However, the effects of adrenalin begin to wear off. The heartbeat returns to normal. Blood pressure plummets to acceptable levels. And I had to use the facility. Cautiously, I went inside. Two armed men were stationed outside my door. I could see activity in the street but nothing that made me anxious.
I grabbed some mending and returned to the patio. When I finished that, I had some hand laundering to do. Mindless chores ease the mind. I began packing my bags to leave for Montana in a few days. No, no, this was not a decision of the moment spurred by the actions in the street. I had been planning the trip for several weeks.
Hunger set in. I didn’t feel like cooking. The troops were still outside my door. I conferred with Ted at the patio. Except for strategically placed guards, the majority of the policia stood at ease. We decided to join one another for lunch at the corner comida. That meant we had to walk through the door guards, street guards and corner guards.
Turns out, we joined two dozen police personnel for lunch. Many of them greeted us. One personable young man came to our table and asked where we were from, typical conversation with tourists. We learned that El Presidente of Sinaloa was in the imposing government building across the street and these folks were here to guard him.
These men and women were on our street, guarding the president and us, for three hours. I felt, well, protected. But a sudden loud percussive noise might have caused me to hit the floor, face down.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She found, upon her return, that things are a little different. Now, she's headed on a new journey. She has moved to Mexico. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)