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Mario y yo

2 August 2007

Manuel Roig-Franzia in the Washington Post meets a fellow journalist in suburban Monterrey:

Tinny salsa downbeats jangled out of the flashing cellphone. Mario Salas pressed hard on the clutch, jammed the gearshift into second and wedged the phone between his right ear and shoulder.

“Dime,” he said — “Tell me.”

“Si,” he said. “Si. A bad accident? A really bad one? I’m on my way.”

It was 5:15 p.m. in this moneyed suburb of Monterrey — time for Salas to transform. When the call came in, Salas was a taxi driver, prowling the streets for fares in a dented, bright green Ford sedan. But the phone call hurled him into his other identity — hustling TV cameraman.

Salas is a Mexican archetype. In this country, where wages are painfully low, almost everyone, it seems, has a second gig, or a third, or a fourth. Moonlighting isn’t a luxury; for many, it is a necessity.

Salas juggles three jobs. He is a taxi driver, a newspaper reporter and a TV cameraman. Sometimes, he’s all three at once.


At least in Monterrey, people pay for gory accident photos, and the occasional shot of a deceased gangster. I don’t print mangled body photos, but I know there are people who look at the Mex Files at least once a week. Thanks to those whom I’ve mentioned before, and to chicanopwr and Frank from Queretaro over the last few days, I’ve managed to keep the lights and phone on for another week or so.


By no means is the Mex Files out of the woods, and the August bills will be higher, since I could barely afford to keep the utilities from being turned off. Like Mario, I’m reporting on what goes on in my town (though we don’t find many dead gangsters out here in Alpine). Though, unlike Mario’s career, researching and writing the Mex Files doesn’t quite mesh with hauling people around.


I suppose in the old days Mexican journalists had it better, since at least bribery kept them eating. Other than some free tamales, bacon and eggs and biscuits and gravy courtesy of our local Democratic Party last Saturday, local reporting barely covers food and rent. The Mex Files is STILL dependent on donations — and the neighbor who ended up with a freezer full of venison she can’t eat (venison, rice, beans and frozen vegetables mixed together aren’t all that tasty, but with some salsa, they’re edible).


Although I didn’t really study for it, in compliance with “Federal Motor Carrier Regulation 49 CFR 391.41-391.49” I took — and passed — a urine test so I can start hauling railroad engineers around the desert from one depot to another.


The pay isn’t very much, and it means time away from research and writing, but without at least a thousand dollars a month (about $30 per regular reader per year), there’s no other way to survive even out here. And that doesn’t count necessities like a new(er) computer to replace the duct-taped together Dell. Or dental work, or….




If you prefer to support the Mex Files by check, or some in-kind donation (I like venison, but enoughs’ enough!), please write me at “richmx2” AT “excite” DOT “com” and include “MEX FILES” in the subject line.

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