Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Dust of the Earth" by Jim A. Parks

Chapter 2
I turned around and backtracked west down Congress Street to the 4th Avenue underpass.
Pedro Luis Martin was born in 1891 in Guadalajara, a member of a prominent family of merchants and investors with roots in the city going back to the time of the Conquistadors. Don Pedro studied abroad at Cambridge University, where he received a degree in Classics. Returning to Mexico, he pursued postgraduate studies in Mesoamerican anthropology at the University of Mexico. Due to a falling out with the faculty of that department, he never finished his degree program.

    An avid philatelist since his youth, Don Pedro used his considerable family inheritance to open a stamp shop near the Zocalo of Mexico City, where he ran a successful business into the 1930s. At that time, Don Pedro began to make regular trips to Tucson, where he knew several fellow stamp collectors. One of these, a prominent doctor, had a daughter whom Don Pedro began to woo when she came of age. He was 46 when he married the 22-year-old Rosalie Sanchez, a recent graduate of the University of Arizona.

    Don Pedro sold his stamp shop in Mexico City and moved to Tucson to live with his new wife. The newlyweds bought a home north of downtown near the Ash Alley arts and crafts community where Rosalie opened a curio shop. Don Pedro continued to deal privately in rare stamps and coins, as well as Mesoamerican antiquities - an occupation that sometimes got him in trouble with Mexican and U.S. authorities. During one of these run-ins, Don Pedro retained the services of Castellano & Castellano, Attorneys at Law, and began a long professional and social relationship with the family. In 1962, Don Pedro's only child, Maria Luisa, married Raul Castellano, son of one the Castellano brothers, and the next year a daughter was born to them. This was Ana Socorro Castellano, who walked away from me that afternoon in 1979, finishing her ice cream cone and delivered by her keepers to the security of her gated home.

    I turned around and backtracked west down Congress Street to the 4th Avenue underpass. Built in the early 1900s, this narrow cavern-like passageway left downtown proper, passed under the Southern Pacific railroad and linked up with 4th Avenue, another partially abandoned district. The storefronts there were a mix of old time businesses like a locksmith and a print shop, and the more recent head shops, jewelry stores and nightclubs, a legacy of the flower-power renaissance of the early 70s. Here you would see street people, school kids from Tucson High, indigenous laborers, or maybe a few would-be punk rockers. Skateboarding was just getting its start on Tucson's streets.

    I met up with some friends - two girls from Tucson High and the legendary Jorge, a dropout who grew up in the south side street gangs and now hung out with the punks and new wavers. The girls were sisters whose names now escape me, more or less high all the time, whose wardrobe came from second-hand stores, home tailored with scissors and safety pins. Anything went back then. There was no corporate hegemony of cool.

    I always found Jorge to be intimidating. He was friendly enough, but something about him wasn't all there. Word was he had been in many violent encounters, knifings, shootings, and just plain chingazos. He was good to have around when any of the punk kids were getting hassled. But he would speak softly to me and touch me in ways that made me uncomfortable -- mess up my hair, slap my face gently, or grab my chin. I couldn't tell sometimes whether he wanted to kick my ass or have prison sex with me - or both.

    It was cool being in a scene back then. Most of us were the kind of people who had never been in any sort of social group. The punk scene was like a social group for misfits. Some of the people I knew back then are now dead, dying or permanently damaged. But it was great fun at the time.
    I asked Jorge about the girl I had just seen, describing her escorts and where I had seen her. He knew who she was immediately.

    "She's not for you, man," he laughed. "She's not for anyone. She's a princess who lives in a castle."

    He seemed amused and I wondered if he had just made a pun on her last name. I asked Jorge if he knew where she lived. He said that he would show me sometime - if I was brave. I left it at that.

    Over the next few weeks, I kept asking Jorge about Ana Socorro -- as much as I could without irritating him into complete silence. I managed to find out the basics of who she was, who her family was, and why she was "not for anyone." Jorge spoke of Raul Castellano as someone he would never want to be on the wrong side of and mentioned his connection with the mobsters. He said that a year previously he had been a sort of errand boy for some connected men, delivering packages and collecting money. He was still occasionally asked to carry out a task, but mostly he had been able to get away from the association. If he didn't ask for anything from these men, then he wasn't asked for much in return.

    Apparently, Jorge had gotten into some situations that had scared even him, forces much bigger than he was. People close to him had been found dead. So Jorge got what he wanted from sources in the Anglo parts of town, dealers further removed from the original Mexican sources. Of course the Mexicans were the ultimate origin of the illegal commerce - all trails led back to them. But Jorge felt safer dealing with the Anglos, and this was how he began to hang out with the punks and new wavers.

To Be Continued...

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