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Attacked in Coatepec

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 | 3 comments

In the morning, just after I woke up, Esme told me that the Compaq computer wasn't working. She thought it had died, which wouldn't have been a big surprise since the motherboard, an Asus K8S-LA (Salmon), had nearly killed the north bridge about 2 years ago. Ironic, since I specifically bought the Compaq Presario SR1505LA because of it having an Asus motherboard, a brand I always had known as very good. Well, not their OEM boards since the heatsink issue I described seems to have occurred in several other computers with an Asus motherboard as well.

But when I pushed the on button on my Dell Vostro 200 ST the computer wouldn't turn on either; a sickly yellow light instead of a piercing blue came from the front. And I knew enough, the voltage had dropped. It was enough to make the lights work, and even Esme's Dell 2208WFP monitor worked when connected to her notebook. But not enough for our desktops. Anyway, a minute or two later the power went completely. After I checked our fuse box, which is outside, and the kWh meter of the neighbors and ours it was clear that there was a local power outage.

Esme called the electricity company and it turned out that nearby streets also were without power. So we decided to do some errands we had planned for tomorrow today, since writing PHP code for Joomla! without power and Internet is not easy. So we got ready to go to the center of Coatepec, but first I want to make another attempt to get some money back from people living down the street of us.

October, last year, Esme had borrowed 200 pesos to a 16 year (or so) old boy, "H". Since Esme knew his mother somewhat, we had bought several times tostadas from her, and also knew that his family was quite poor, she borrowed him the money without giving it much thought. He promised Esme to pay her back as soon as his boss was going to pay him out.

Weeks later Esme asked him for the money. And again. And each time she heard the same story: he hadn't been paid yet by his boss, but next Saturday, he promised, he would come to our house, and pay Esme back. Months later I came along with Esme when she went to his parent's house. "H" was not at home, but we talked with his mother, and his father, and they both told us that we would get the money in the weekend.

You probably have already a feeling where this is going. But after several more friendly requests to pay the money, Esme finally managed to make the mother come to our house with 50 pesos. I told Esme that I didn't mind if they took their time to pay us back, or did so in small amounts, as long as there was movement. But alas, no more payments followed. Again I accompanied Esme to the house. She spoke to "H", and translated some of what I said as well since my Spanish is still not good enough; I can understand quite some, but still can't make sentences that are understandable by others. Anyway, "H" promised to pay us some money in the weekend, since he was going to be paid Saturday. But it was already clear from the smug expression on his face that it was not going to happen. But even if he had kept his face straight, we probably would have assumed, correctly as it turned out, that it was not going to happen.

Anyway, since we would walk past their house on our way to the center of Coatepec, I decided to give it another try. So I knocked on the metal door which opens up on a hallway that leads to a small paved backyard serving as a common area to several rooms which are rented out as houses, one occupied by "H" and his family. "H" opened the door and when he saw me and Esme he immediately became very aggressive in his behavior. Maybe my strong knocking on the door had given him the message that we didn't want to be sent away again. But more likely he was still angry with us because of what had happened a few weeks ago.

"H"'s mother sells tostadas, picadas and other "antojitos mexicanos" on Saturdays and Sundays from a small stand in front of the door that leads to the common area. Up until a few weeks ago this hasn't caused any problem. But recently, on a Saturday we couldn't sleep because of a lot of noise: loud music, and drunk people. Since we had already learned the hard way that we now live in a neighborhood were making noise is a right, no matter the time or the kind of noise. If you complain you are told that everybody makes noise. Anyway, we decided to wait it out, even though the music was tuned up a bit more. Around 4am (yes, four in the morning) we had really had it. So Esme and I got dressed, and I walked out, to the antojitos stand and asked in my best Spanish to lower the volume. The music was coming from a white car, with one occupant clearly pissed, and other one who looked just drunk. Anyway, the music got lowered a bit, but when I walked away it was "playfully" turned up again, and someone called after me in what sounded like English. While I walked back, Esme called the police, in view of the drunks. And a minute or two later they drove away with their white car and the "fun" finally came to a halt. Since "H" was also present at that time it might be that he was still angry with us.

Since from our past encounters talking with "H" would be a pointless exercise, so I stepped into the hallway and wanted to go to their house and talk with his father or mother. Well, like I already wrote, my Spanish is not good enough to actually have a conversation, but "mi dinero" (my money) would be clear.

Maybe "H" misunderstood what I was planning to do, even though I did say to him "mi dinero", since he yelled for a machete. His mom came out of the house, and while "H" took over a machete from his younger brother "O", she stepped in front of "H". I said to her as well: "mi dinero", and was greeted with a flood of angry Spanish which I couldn't follow. In the mean time "H" was becoming extremely aggressive: blowing air through his nose, vibrating his body, flashing his eyes, and talking (or trying to talk) in a low, menacing voice. Yet, I was not impressed.

I asked again for my money in Spanish, and then the foul language started. My Spanish is limited, but I was able to return the favor without much trouble, which greatly pissed off "H" who now started to swing the rusty machete his brother "O" had handed him earlier. While the knife resembled more a cane knife than a machete because of its blunt ending, it looked more than sufficient to do serious harm to me. In the meantime, "O" had gone back into the house and returned this time with a large reddish brown wooden baseball bat. "H" tried to slash me several times with the rusty machete, while his mom tried to block the way. And after a few near misses -- misses not for his trying since it was clear that by now he was possessed and far from thinking clearly but truly trying to cut me -- he managed to nick my left arm. At the start of his swing, aimed at my head, I had moved sideways and backwards and moved my left arm up to block the blow. And since I was fast enough, I just got a nick...

Nick (4cm) on my left upper arm, caused by a machete.
Nick (4cm) on my left upper arm, caused by a machete.

In case you're now wondering why I didn't move backwards and leave the hallway, two reasons: First, turning my back and walking out would've been stupid, since then I couldn't see "H" anymore nor block is machete attacks. And hence he could have seriously hurt my back. Walking backwards might have worked, but then he could follow me out in the open, move past his mother and not only swing his weapon at me, but also at Esme, and Alice. So I tried to keep the lunatic in the hallway, his mother blocking him, the walls preventing him from getting a good swing, and I keeping a close eye on his moves, trying to anticipate his lunges and block them.

The mother had already "threatened" me that the police would be called, and I would be deported (sure!). The former was fine with me; I even replied with bueno: good. Esme was already trying to call the police anyway. And then things seemed to calm down a bit; maybe because "H" had been able to draw some blood, albeit very little. So I tried to calm down Alice, who had started to cry when "H" injured my arm.

Seemed to calm down, since shortly after "H" replaced the machete with the baseball bat "O" handed him over at his request and then started to wind himself further up with more heavy nose breathing, swearing, shaking his body, and flashing his eyes at me. Somehow I was reminded of the display of a male turkey, only the feathers were missing, and had to suppress a giggle that tried to get out. Moreover, I had no time to laugh, since "H" was now trying to hit my head with the baseball bat like he took "Beat on the Brat" by the Ramones very serious. Lucky for me the hallway made it difficult for him to swing the bat. Also his mother was still in the way. Yet after several attempts he managed to make a serious swing at my head. And again I managed to block an attack with my left arm, partially this time though. A part of my shoulder got hit, my lower ribs got struck as well. But overall the impact hardly hurt me; only later a bruise on my wrist and a somewhat more tender one just above the left lower rib would show up.

Bruise on my left wrist, caused by a baseball bat.
Bruise on my left wrist, caused by a baseball bat.

After a few more swings "H" decided to switch back to the rusty machete and made several more attempts to hit me. I made several attempts to calm him down, but no matter what I tried, he only used it to feed his rage. I already wrote "possessed" and I think the wording is exactly right, since instead of the police an exorcist might have been more effective to solve this. In the meantime the mother of "H" was on the phone, calling her husband. She asked him to come to the house and bring four men with him to beat me up. When she had hung up "H" had returned to his animal-like treat display: vibrating his body, flashing his eyes, snarling. Inviting me to come and get it, and stating that I had no "cojones" (balls). I asked "no cojones?" and pointed at Alice and Esme who is nearly due to give birth to our son to show that I not only had cojones but that they also worked pretty well. But it all went with a loud wooosh straight over his head. Then again I tried to calm him down, asking Esme how to tell him in Spanish to relax and take a deep breath, and illustrating it with taking a loud deep breath myself. But to no positive effect, at all.

Then the father of "H" entered the hallway, and asked me to leave. I waited until he had moved in front of his wife and son, blocking the latter and his weapon completely from me, and since I now considered it safe to leave the hallway, I left. The father yelled, after he had closed the door behind him, some English swear words at me. Now all outside, we just waited for the police to arrive, which took quite some time. Or maybe our sense of time was different, since I felt like I had been standing in the hallway for an hour. But finally they arrived. Esme explained what had happened, and one of the police officers knocked on the door with his key. It took some more knocking before finally the door opened, and the mother came out. I couldn't follow what was being discussed, and at this point wasn't even interested anymore. I was talking with Alice, and she was showing to me the birthday invitation she got for coming Sunday. I told her that the police was coming for the boy because he had been hitting me. At least that was what I was expecting...

But the officer just made a few notes. When he asked the mother and father for their names, they just plainly refused to give them. I understood that the mother exclaimed something like "if this was about a million pesos..." and I heard her claim that I had poisoned dogs (what?). All the while the other two officers where just hanging around, giving me the impression that they were mostly bored. Esme was told to report the incident at the police station. She asked the officer with the notebook if he could give us a ride. He agreed, and so Esme and Alice went in the front of the police car, with the driver, and I went in the back of the small truck, together with two officers.

After some driving through the streets of Coatepec we finally arrived at the police station. And a short wait we were invited into an office and could tell our story. Everything was typed into a computer. When done Esme read the rapport from the computer screen, and after a few additions and corrections she mentioned it was printed in six fold. I had to sign both sides of each print-out. Esme had to sign as well each print-out but only the back side of each. Then we were asked to return to the waiting room until the medical examiner could check out the machete nick I had received. After a few minutes I was called back into the office and send up. The medical examiner had a look at the nick, measured it, made some notes and told me to clean it with soap. Shortly after we left the police station.

Since by now it was past three and we originally had planned to go to the bank, we took a taxi from the police station to the Banamex building, since it would close at four. While I kept Alice company in the bank, Esme went out to buy a bottle of water in a nearby shop. When she returned she spotted "H"'s mother waiting in line for the ATM. I joked that she was finally getting our money, and asked Esme: "Should I just walk over and ask her for our money?" Of course I was kidding, and we just waited our turn and just looked the other way when "H"'s mom also entered the bank.

After our errant at the bank we had a nice lunch in the center of Coatepec. Afterward we walked back to our house. Nearly there we encountered a mother and her daughter who live next door to "H"'s family. Several months earlier the mother had told Esme that "H"'s family owed a lot of people money, and that in general they are trouble. Since she and her daughter had also seen what had happened in the hallway they had no problem at all to give their names to Esme and also gave her the phone number of the landlord of "H"'s family.

In the early evening Esme finally managed to get a hold of the landlord on the phone. He was just back from telling "H"'s family that they had a week to leave the house. It's not the first time that this family has caused trouble, nor the first time that they have been asked by their landlord to leave. It wouldn't surprise me if they are still around in this neighborhood by the time we return back to Xalapa. Yes, back to Xalapa, since we have really had it with Coatepec. Maybe we picked the wrong neighborhood of this "magic town", but on the other hand, I doubt it makes any difference where you live in Coatepec: dog packs cruising the streets at night making other dogs bark like crazy, drunk people, loud music, and monthly fireworks, now and then around 4 am, are just a bit too much. When Coatepec is silent, it's almost scary silent compared to Xalapa. But when it's not, it drives me crazy. And in my experience, a friendly request to neighbors, asking them to control their dogs or lower their music is only greeted with aggression and excuses like "others do the same." or "I was born here."

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