A Night of Fine Arts in Mexico City

Palace of Fine Arts | cultural centre, Mexico City, Mexico | Britannica

Palace of Fine Arts | cultural centre, Mexico City, Mexico | BritannicaI was lying asleep on a park bench in La Alameda Park in downtown Mexico City; it was fairly early in the evening, and a group of police officers woke me up and spoke with me. One of them asked me if I had a gun. I said no, but thought it was a curious question. I wondered if he meant I ought to have a gun if I intended to sleep in the park. With that comforting thought, I went back to sleep.

A few hours later I was awakened by two British men who were drinking large quantities of beer a few yards off. Their loud voices and the clinking of beer bottles on the ground is what woke me up. A prostitute and a Mexican guy (her pimp I suppose), were with the two Brits.

By the way, Alameda Park is next to the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City (Palacio de Bellas Artes).

Soon after I was awakened by all the racket, about six police officers showed up. I am not sure what happened, but suddenly one of the British guys starts yelling “give me back my ten quid!” Evidently one of the cops had taken the equivalent of a $30 “fine.” In Mexico this is often the smart course of action, simply pay the police and be done with the problem.

But this British guy was having none of it. He stood in front of the six policemen and demanded his money back. The pimp tried to calm things down, but the British guy would not back down, and he suddenly snatched the money from the police officer’s hand. The police officer then pulled out his revolver and pointed it at the British guy at point blank range.

I got ready to run (which was kind of hard to manage as I was inside my mummy sleeping bag), since I have no intention of hanging around if I witnessed a murder committed by these cops – they might find my continued existence to be embarrassing. Things were very tense for a few moments, and then the cops took off. It looked like it had been a very close thing.

I immediately stuffed my sleeping bag into its sack, and went over to introduce myself to those two British madmen. Anyone that crazy seemed to be worth meeting. Turns out they were pretty regular guys, just traveling around, and heading for South America where the British soccer team was playing in the World Cup. We stayed at a cheap hotel in downtown Mexico and toured the city, taking in various sights such as Chapultepec Park, where one memorable street show involved a man taking gasoline into his mouth, and then spraying it out through a flame: it looked like a tough way to make some money.

The British chaps were even good enough to hang around an extra day in order to celebrate my 21st birthday, which as I kind of recall, ended at the Plaza of the Mariachis, where mariachi players gathered after the bars closed in the wee hours of the morning.

A couple of prostitutes also showed up, and were exposing themselves for additional entertainment that particular night. When I got a good look at them I really had to wonder how they managed to make a living.

In retrospect, during the police incident in Alameda Park, it was thru pure luck or intuition that the British guy gambled, and won, on the assumption that the policeman would not shoot him. If the cop had shot him it would have been in front of five other cops, one US citizen, and two Mexican nationals; so this was no doubt a constraint. Could be there was some type of business arrangement between the prostitute, the pimp, and the cops, and maybe the pimp paid a fee to use the park.

Warning: this was done by bona-fide drunken British adventurers, well trained and experienced in their art form: DO NOT attempt this without proper training and supervision!