Visit of the Saint Death: In the lair of Mexican Narcos

Visit of the Saint Death: In the lair of Mexican Narcos

We entered through an ordinary metal gate into the imaginary hallway of the safe house, and I placed my life on an imaginary hook on a key ring made of hair. When I leave, I'll pick it up again, but in the meantime, it won't be in my control.

A parallel life, not unlike the one outside, yet different, pulsed in the square of this city hidden in another city. Boys were loitering, children playing among them, freshly washed clothes hanging on ropes above their heads. Only the queue forming in front of the tarpaulin-covered shelter didn't seem to belong there, and yet it was central to all this.

With each successive right hand I was handed, it became clear that the chances of backing out of this venture were diminishing. For a moment I wondered if I should get back. But who would want to be a bungee jumper who climbs back over the ledge at the last minute and unhooks himself from the straps with trembling hands? There was nothing to do but accept the challenge, keep free-falling, and wait for the rope to carry me, stop me when I was at the bottom, and throw me back into normal life up there.

We skipped that line for the shelter and did a deal with the guys who were laughing at us from behind giant bags of cocaine and marijuana, sniffing glue from a crumpled plastic bottle. That was the deal, to get us where we needed to go.

One more important fact played against the eventual NO: Once you peer into this half-world, the word NO loses its value, subject to loyalty inflation. Here, on the sovereign soil of the unwritten rulers of Ciudad de México, the rules of the world we are used to are not applying. As soon as the metal gate slams behind you, of which there are countless in this neighborhood among the thousands of stalls of the dreaded market, you cease to be masters of your destiny. You sign up for the devil, who greets you at the secret entrance with the clean-shaven face of a sympathetic young man with sharp features, a smoky joint behind his ear, and a bandaged wrist injured in a street fight. He flashes you a mischievous smile while announcing your arrival over the radio. You high-five him like an old pal, but even the oldest old pal doesn't have as much power over your next being and non-being as a bunch of anonymous teenagers here in the underworld do at that moment. What the demigods here say goes, and so your eventual NO casts you in the shadow of distrust, and makes you suspicious and weak - not unlike in the normal circles of the transparent world, where NO is even a sign of confidence and strength. Here you have to hand your NO at the door, or it will remain as a burning brand. Whereas a determined yes confirms that you are the right person in the right place, and is your ticket in and out at the same time.