Cameras and Broccoli
After exactly one week, one of the local bandits walked through the unfinished building ten feet from us and, as predicted, stepped out onto a ledge and dropped a heavy rock on our neighbor’s replacement security camera—which had been placed by right below it.
I guess you could call it a war over the public space and how it should be used. The alleys are for whom? Arbitrary occupation and use by a few families, or for safe passage for everyone? It’s all more comprehensible if you think of bandit and non-bandit culture, for which there is a long history in Mexico. The bandit culture says, “I will take what I want and you can’t stop me—because I have rights, too.” Except that bandit or tribal rights exclude the rights of others. “There shall be no limits on my behavior,” says bandit culture.
So how do you resolve the issue, if you have to change culture in order to do it?
What about broccoli culture? It is entirely the opposite. We were returning from San Miguel the other afternoon. There was a big truck ahead of us, with high sides and back and an open top. It was loaded with broccoli, with a loose tarp over everything. At the smallest bump, the whole load jiggled like—well, broccoli.
I said to Dianne, “Bump the back of the truck (with our Honda CV-R), maybe some broccoli will fall off.” I was joking, of course. But then the truck came to a tope—a speed bump—a little too quickly. Three heads of broccoli fell off. I said, “Stop!” Dianne stopped, in the middle of traffic. I jumped out in bare feat. I picked up three heads of broccoli. Bandit work. After all, the truck had gone on. I offered one to a motorcyclist behind us. He shook his head grimly, as if the say, “Get out of my way, free the road.”
We drove on a bit. A man was returning to the sidewalk. He had two heads of broccoli. I whistled my loud whistle at him, motioned a throw, he prepared to catch, I tossed, he caught. Big smiles at each other. A moving broccoli pass-off.
Farther ahead, a young woman was picking up broccoli. I called, “Buen provecho!” Bon Appétit. Big conspiratorial smile. We crossed the railroad line. Farther along, a man had gotten out of his car to retrieve fallen broccoli. “That’s private property, you know,” I said. He didn’t know what to think. In a few seconds, he passed us on the inside and waved—smiling.
We stopped one more time. I got out and picked up a broccoli. A nice one. Then I saw that a woman had started across the road from a fruit stand. I walked to meet her. She came forward, we met in the middle of the highway. It was a sweet exchange. After all, we had all the broccoli we needed, and she had hoped for one.
What happened? you ask. I think we were performing bandit culture, but with a difference, in that we were sharing the public space—and the public booty.