The Queen of the Pánuco
The Queen of the Pánuco is the story of a Mexican Federal Policeman once tasked with protecting the President of Mexico Lázaro Cárdenas, but now disgraced for petty theft. He and his wife Mariana travel to the oil port Tampico on the Mexican Gulf Coast, looking for their estranged son Rey, where they stumble into the struggles between Socialist petroleum workers and those who would suppress them to the point of assassination. All this, on the eve of the nationalization of Mexican oil by Lázaro Cárdenas in 1938 and the Second World War. Complicating the situation, Rey turns out to be a lawyer who protects workers’ rights and is married to a passionate young Irish woman who has fled Madrid and the on-going Spanish Civil War, where she took fateful measures to protected non-fascist militia women from rightist urban attacks and predations by supposedly helping Soviet co-fighters.
Air pockets in the tarp worked against the weight of the stones we had wrapped him with, so that—emitting bubbles you could hear but not see—the mummy that was David Lawrence settled down into the water slower than one would have wished. I cleated the end of the rope at the stern, so we wouldn’t lose it. Luis started the engine again and told me to play out the rope, looped around a thole pin amidships so the line wouldn’t tangle in the propeller. When we thought we had gotten close enough our spot—two un-extraordinary fishermen trying their luck under a weak moon—Luis cut the engine again and told me to haul in the rope, so we could retrieve it and let David Lawrence sink back to the bottom. This meant pulling the boat back toward our weighted passenger who, because of the immediate resistance, I knew was already resting on the bottom. I had pulled maybe three times, hand over hand, maybe five or six times, when the rope shot out of my hands, snapped the thole pin into the air, and snaked down into the water, eating up all the slack I had gained. Because the end of the rope was still cleated to the transom, whatever was trying to rob us of our passenger began to pull us backward at such a pace that water poured over the stern and threatened to sink us.
“To the bow!” Luis shouted, Captain Ahab-style, and I leapt to the bow, so that my weight would bring the stern up. Luis, in the meantime, the good sailor that he was, clawed out his knife and slashed at the taut line until it parted and disappeared with a sound like a flat stone falling from a considerable height edge-first back down into water—letting the stern rise up and saving us.