He materialised by my side whilst I was gazing over the ruins
of the main temple of Aztec Teocalli. Hi, where
are you from? Its a standard line a foreigner
gets used to hearing a thousand times a day walking around
All around me the cries of vendors, the haggling of shoppers,
the click of cameras. The cobbled surrounds of the magnificent
16th century Catedral Metropolitana and the famous
Zocolo Plaza becomes by the afternoon a colourful craft
market where you can buy anything from a Shamans blessing
to brightly coloured hand-woven textiles or a Che Guevara
We remained a while gazing over the ruins of Teocalli, the
ceremonial centre of Tenochititlan, the Aztec city
that the Spaniards destroyed in the 1520s to build Mexico
City. I checked him out from side-on. He could have been a
pickpocket by the looks of him. Im from Australia.
Would I allow him to show me through the ruins he wanted
to know? Most definitely not! The dark dank corridors of an
Aztec temple are not the kind of places you go strolling with
a possible thief. Perhaps he saw me as easy pickings. A foreign
woman travelling alone.
But what the hell! I told him he could accompany me around
the Zocolo, it was crowded with people, and besides it would
be interesting passing a few hours with someone who makes
his living from the pockets of others.
We headed back towards the plaza and he made a passing reference
to the Cathedral, eager to take on the role of guide. As we
strolled I could almost hear him thinking this will
be easy as he slid his eyes over my daypack which held
my camera and my purse. I maintained a firm hold.
We bought some colas and sat down on a curb to watch the
conchero dancers. Of an afternoon they perform,
native Indians to the region, eager to carry on the traditions
of their ancestors and also make an honest living.
In magnificent feathered headdresses, golden chest plates
and concha shell anklets the troupe were dancing up a storm.
Round and round they swirled but every time the leader of
the dancers passed me, he would shoot me an intense look.
My companion looked uncomfortable, suggesting we move on.
Finally he left the dancers and came over. Taking me to one
side he said with words so softly spoken I had to bend down
to him to hear them
Beware of your companion
and then he was gone.
For an hour or so we played a game of cat and mouse. Finally
I turned to him, burning with curiosity and asked straight
out, Please tell me, I want to know not because I think
bad of you but because I am fascinated, how is the life of
a thief in Mexico City? He froze, then a flicker of
a guilty smile played across his lips before he feigned a
look over his shoulder and stuttered, who me?
Youve got it wrong! He refused to open
up, to share with me, to come clean. We remained quiet for
a while gazing over the crowd below until I felt a movement.
The move I was waiting for. Our eyes met, then we both looked
down at the backpack where he already had two fingers inside,
past the zipper.
He walked me back to my hotel. At the door he looked confused.
Ive spent the afternoon with you and gotten nothing,
he said each word slowly as if he couldnt quite believe
it. Youve had the pleasure of my company, a packet
of cigarettes and some cokes. I pointed out. Yes,
but you know what I mean
cant you at least give
me a kiss?
With a laugh I wished him the best for the future, a kiss
on the cheek and left him there. He was still repeating over
pero nada! I got nothing!
Text © Caroline Puzinas, All Rights Reserved