MEXICO CITY – Peter W Davies

On May Day – International Workers´ Day – at approximately 10:30am, a large group of police officers, around 50, were gathered in Callejon San Ignacio just off Plaza de las Vizcaínas in the Centro Historico district of Mexico City. Police musters are seen often throughout Mexico City. Regular officers receive instructions from their superiors before fanning out in pairs or quartets to their allocated beats in the city. Initially this gathering seemed no different, routine and ordinary.

Scores of officers were lined up against the exterior walls of buildings on both sides of the alleyway. One officer stated that they were awaiting their deployment to watch over the thousands of workers who were descending on the downtown in their traditional march to a mass rally in the Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square) or Zocalo. Several of the officers, albeit a minority, were in riot gear, wearing helmets and sporting polycarbonate shields. They would soon and unexpectedly become very handy.

A single orange thrown from one side of the alleyway and aimed at officers, partially concealed by a parked car, on the opposite side of the narrow alley marked the start of proceedings. It hit a target, which led to immediate retaliation. A half drunk bottle of coca cola -a police accessory almost as ubiquitous as a gun- was rapidly flung back in the direction of the initial missile only to fall short of the desired target and explode on the pavement in a hissing and spluttering mess. Officers broke out in contagious laughter.

The calm before the storm
The calm before the storm

All remained quiet on this unexpected culinary front for several minutes and it could have been assumed that it was an isolated episode, nothing more than spontaneous fire and return. However, the brief recess was in fact used to procure further ammunition. Shortly after, the battle restarted with a flurry of fire in both directions. A peeled banana, a partially eaten torta (Mexican sandwich) and more bottled sodas were all witnessed flying through the air in impassioned battle.

In front of a small crowd of bewildered passersby the fighting continued intermittently for some minutes before a cease fire was ordered by the officer in charge, presumably in order to restore some semblance of professionalism to a force that is ostensibly charged with the duty to protect and to serve.  This whole bizarre episode, unthinkable is many countries of the world where an article of this type would likely be dismissed as a spoof, occurred here on the streets of the capital of Mexico, a country which Andre Breton is reputed to have described as ¨ the most surrealist country of all ¨.

This is the second time police officers in Mexico City have been the focus of a post on this site.  The chronicle, The Bite that Feeds the Hand:  Police Bribes in Mexico City can be read by clicking here.

Peter W Davies

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