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The greatest Mexican super-hero: The Flea

17 September 2015

In almost any Mexican city, you can have your photo taken with Spiderman or The Hulk, or any number of comic book heroes, but in Cuatla, Morelos, keep your eye out for a skinny octogenarian, Marcos Efrén Zarñara. Don Marcos — better known as “El Pulga” (The Flea) — unlike Clark Kent, or Bruce Wayne, was never aware of his superpowers until he was well into middle age. On the 17th of September 1985, he was operating his sandwich stand across from a high school on Calle Humboldt in central Mexico City when… at 7:17 in the morning… as students had just begun their day… the school (and much of the neighborhood) collapsed around him.

Abel Torres Chávez, who was buried for three days until The Flea could reach him, despite hearing other students die around him (and being trapped under a corpse) kept himself going by thinking of one thing… when he got out, the first thing he was going to do was buy a sandwich from that skinny little guy. THe skinny little guy was the first person to reach Torres, of course.

Over the next two weeks, Don Marcos rescued 27 people in all, just in Mexico City. In the subsequent years, he would turn from Don Marcos the Torta man into The Flea, sometimes just taking the Metro to the airport — without a ticket (or even his passport) and … because he is a superhero — getting where he was needed. When earthquakes struck in Oaxaca, Puebla, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Turkey; when tornados ripped through Oklahoma; when mudslides hit San Salvador, people don’t wait around for Batman or Superman … they call on the real superheroes. Guys like The Flea.

Photo: EFE/Octavio Vidal

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 17 September 2015 8:32 am

    Wonderful story. Is he going to Chile now?

  2. William Hogge permalink
    17 September 2015 1:21 pm

    Only a small correction. It’s Cuautla, Morelos. My adopted Mexican hometown.

  3. 21 September 2015 9:59 pm

    Wow! What a great story!

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we find this kind of story inspiring.

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