Killing Reveals The Still-Dark Side Of a Gentrifying Capital

This sprawling city has been described recently as ”vibrant” (Elle Decor), ”rich with historical heritage and incredible food traditions” (Saveur), ”scrubbed and safe” (New York magazine) and ”inviting and exciting” (Fodor’s). Skyscrapers and sleek glass-and-concrete condominiums are quickly vanquishing tired, old structures, the well-heeled trip over themselves en route to the hottest new eatery, and ragged public spaces are being reborn as verdant oases. But last week brought a reminder of how this beast of a megalopolis, once synonymous with danger, can seem tamed at one turn and snarling the next. Across a busy avenue from Plaza Garibaldi, a popular if timeworn tourist district downtown known for roving mariachi buskers, Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of Malcolm X, was found beaten to death outside the Palace Bar on May 9. The police said it appeared he and a Mexican friend had fallen for a common ruse: women offering company, cheap drinks or both who lure unsuspecting visitors to a dive bar near the plaza. Staggering tabs await them at last call. The choice often is to pay or fight. Presented with a bill for $1,200 after a night of drinking, Mr. Shabazz ended up in a violent confrontation in which he was beaten with a blunt object, while his companion was robbed before fleeing. Two waiters at the bar, now closed, have been charged with murder and robbery, and other employees are being sought. The severity of the beating came as a surprise to many here, but not the fact that it happened. Most people in the know stay out of the questionable bars. The cantinas, business owners in the neighborhood said, pay bribes so that police officers and inspectors look the other way. ”You arrive, you order drinks, but you are with a young woman, and when the check comes they tell you every drink you had with the woman costs 400 to 500 pesos ($33 to $40),” said Raziel González del Ángel, the president of the Plaza Garibaldi merchants association. His advice was to pay whatever eye-popping amount is demanded and file an official complaint later. Musicians in the plaza, who worry that the killing may depress their already struggling business, said that on recent nights they had noticed more police officers in the plaza and fewer of the women known as ”jaladoras,” or those who lure young men. But the hucksters have not totally disappeared. One young woman approached a visitor on Wednesday night to offer low-cost drinks on a street many blocks away, but she moved on when faced with too many questions, like the name of the bar. ”It’s kind of an old tradition to get drunk and get robbed or scammed there,” said Pablo A. Piccato, a Columbia University history professor who has studied Mexico City crime and went to high school and college here. The square has long been devoted to drink and song; Tenampa, a landmark restaurant founded in 1925 that claims to have first brought the mariachi tradition to Mexico City from Jalisco State, celebrates both, with murals depicting song lyrics that seem to all include variations of ”drink” or ”being drunk.” A museum opened in the plaza a couple of years ago devoted to tequila and mezcal. All the carousing drove families from the plaza, seedier types moved in and the buildings began to fade, with a few abandoned or in an advanced state of disrepair. Revitalization plans have come and gone, including an effort in 2009 to make it attractive to the middle class rather than a place for drunks, drug addicts and prostitutes. The plaza’s promoters complain that the city has left them behind as tourism has taken off in other areas. Neighborhoods around the plaza, where much of the trouble emanates, have been largely ignored, business owners say. In an interview, Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera acknowledged the complaints and promised to address them. ”There’s still a lot to do,” he said. ”I think we still have to intervene in surrounding areas. Garibaldi is still affected by surrounding areas and that is what we need to work on.” ”Several blocks away is Tepito, the roughest neighborhood in the city,” said Ramses Cueva Guadarrama, a manager at Tenampa, making the case that tourists ought not venture too far from the music. ”Yes, Garibaldi is obviously not the safest area of the city, but it is a very safe place.” Still, even at his restaurant, patrons are often checked for weapons at the door, where a sign warns against accepting offers to be brought to ”places of dubious reputation” and advises, ”If you are robbed, make a complaint!” The grit did not deter several couples from paying the mariachis for serenades on a recent afternoon, and a handful of tourists dined at Tenampa, while others strolled on the plaza. Few had heard of Mr. Shabazz’s killing. ”We were told by our hotel to only come here when the sun is up,” said Christian Petri, a 23-year-old university student from Argentina. Like any big city, Mexico’s capital will always have its rough patches, as well as a hazy line between what is fun and what is felonious. ”Mexico City has always had pockets of illegality and danger,” Dr. Piccato said, ”and for some people that is part of the attraction.”

Dejar un comentario

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada. Los campos obligatorios están marcados con *