Welcome to Raicilla Dreams, please make yourself comfy....you will find many photos, anecdotes and tales of Yelapa told by amigos that lived there before electricity and before it was totally discovered by the tourist world. I welcome your own memories and photos.

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Another Load, or, To There and Back Again

This story starts in Yelapa, goes to Oaxaca, then on to Zihuatanejo, Mexico City, back to Oaxaca, and, finally ends back in Yelapa.

Graham and I were hanging around Casa De Alacron; later known as Casa Aribba; sitting at the table on the terrace looking out over the Bahia de Banderas and down at the beach of Yelapa. We had noticed a small yacht had pulled into the bay that morning,  since that happens regularly, we didn’t think anything of it. This was around 9am and the Sombrero nor Paladin had not pulled into the bay yet.

An hour or so later, two guys arrived at the gate of Casa de Alacron and rang the bell to get our attention. Graham and I looked over the edge of the terrace to see who it was; neither of us recognized these 2 guys so we were a little curious. Visitors at your gate in Yelapa were kind of rare in those days; especially people that you did not recognize. I ambled down to the gate to talk to them and found two nice guys that mentioned the name of a good friend of mine in the San Francisco area. I invited them up to the house. 

It turns out that they were trying to put together a load of pot from somewhere in Mexico to take back to the states on their boat.  They had found the right person and the right location. We spent the rest of the day getting to know each other and finding out what kind of folks these guys were and trying to organize something without revealing too much of my hand at first as we did NOT know them; but they had come with the name of someone that I trusted and a message in a kind of code that only I would understand and that my friend in SF was vouching for them. We smoked a lot of pot that day and night and talked about several possible scenarios to pull this off.

When organizing a boat shot as this type of run was called, there are several logistical issues to be worked out. The first of which is how to communicate with each other while one party is on land and the other is out to sea. We decided on the use of a set of walkie/talkies that I owned and got their call sign designation for the boat. Thus, we could communicate and get us both to the agreed coordinates at the same time in the same place. This is NOT that easy to do as one of the factors requires loading a large panga with the product and meeting a boat at sea during night, in the Golfo de Tehuantepec. What might be large rolling seas at 3am is not the easiest thing to do, but possible.

The next logistical issue was Graham and I had to go to Oaxaca and arrange for the product, the panga, pick longitude and latitude coordinates, and then get that information back to the people on the boat. This latter issue required a physical meeting place between the boat guys and myself north of the coordinates. We settled on meeting in Zihuatanejo back farther north and where we could talk rivately in person as you cannot use the walkie/talkie for anything other than light chatter.  All of the other logistics had to be worked out beforehand and everyone needed to be able to understand timing, locations, and other factors before you try to load a boat in the middle of the night out to sea.

So Graham and I went to Oaxaca and set up the purchase and delivery of the load out into the Golfo; that was the easy part. I headed back north to Zihuatanejo to meet the guys and lock down the meeting coordinates, call codes, and other issues before we were to meet again at sea.

Zihuatanejo was quite a bit different in 1974. Ixtapa was just really starting to be developed and Zihuat was still pretty much a sleepy fishing village. There were a couple of new restaurants and hotels, but big development had not happened yet, so it was a pretty good place for the meeting. There were gringo tourists around, but not too many of them.  I got a room at a local pensione and sat down to wait for the boat. Boats don’t arrive in a location like a car does… it might take several days to get to there from Yelapa; this is one of the reasons that logistics have to carefully prepared in advance. I had to be patient and use the walkie/talkie every few hours to try to make contact; they don’t have a lot of range either.

While waiting, I met a guy named Peter from Canada that was hanging out in Zihuatenjo by himself and he was very curious about me and what I was doing; but he seemed pretty cool and I just told him I was waiting for some guys with a boat. He didn’t ask about anything else. We went out to dinner at a new restaurant called La Tortuga and was trying to make a name for itself with the tourist crowd. We started doing a fair amount of drinking that night since I knew the boat was not going to arrive that night. I used to drink quite a bit in those days, so when The Turtle closed, we went to another bar and closed it, too, so the only place left to go was to the local brothel! Anyone that knows Mexico knows that you don’t have to date the girls at brothels in Mexico but you do have to buy drinks. We drank some more.

While drinking, we met two guys from Mexico D.F. that worked for the phone company and they were in town putting in new phone poles and infrastructure for the new construction going on in the area. They were a couple of nice guys named Adam and Oscar. While we were sitting around the bar, we were playing different bar games that involved moving matches to make shapes, card tricks and generally goofing off and having a good time in a bar at 4am. During this fun, another young guy had latched on to us. We don’t remember his  name and he was not a friend of Adam nor Oscar. This guy is central to the rest of this story.

A while later we decided it was time to eat some breakfast and the 5 of us walked out front to one of the two taco stands on opposite sides of the street. While we were eating the great tacos, a group of young guys across the street started yelling to the guys with us. They were asking why Adam, Oscar, and the other guy were spending time with gringos.  It got heated quickly as can happen with young Latino men that have been drinking and words were exchanged that should not have been. I admit that I can have a big mouth and it has gotten me in trouble more than once. Words flew for about 2 minutes and then all hell broke loose.

Guys from the other taco stand came running across the street and within seconds there was a full-fledged brawl in the middle of the street with about 10 locals, 2 gringoes, 2 phone guys and the stranger. The unknown guy, pulled out a knife and slit the throat of a guy from across the street and now everyone was running in opposite directions within 30 seconds of the whole fiasco starting. I took one look at the guy bleeding in the street and knew he was dead without looking twice. It was time to get out of town. I grabbed Peter and yelled, Let's go NOW!

The hotel was only about 3 blocks away and we were there in minutes. My plan was to grab the 4 or 5K I had stashed in the room  and get out of town as fast as possible. I figured we could flag down someone in a car or truck and give them some money to take us south to Acapulco or somewhere safe.  Of course, when we opened the door to leave the hotel, there were about 4 local cops standing at the door with guns drawn and we simply walked in the direction they told us to go. Within 2 blocks and 2 minutes we were being processed into the jail in Zihuatanejo. 

No jail in Mexico is fun and this one was by some standards a bit better than some due to the fact it was small and not very populated. We found out quickly that about 10 people from the fight were in custody; Peter and I, Adam and Oscar, a few of the guys from across the street… but the guy that actually did the killing, of course, had gotten clean away. This presents major problems in Mexico, because, SOMEBODY HAS TO PAY. We had not yet figured out the plan was for it to be the gringos.

We ended up staying at the local jail about 10 days. Needless to say, I missed the boat and  “our pot shot” was a dead deal. We didn’t know that events were in motion to make us “dead” as well.  As luck would have it, the local boy that died at the taco stand was a member of the ultima familia of the town; his father and uncle were high ranking members of the Mexican Army, and his “godfather” (a big deal in Mexico) was the local District Attorney called Agente de Ministereo de Publico, in Mexico… all of these are very powerful people in Mexico and are used to getting their way.

It turned out the locals knew we were innocent of the charges. We were officially being held on a charge of murder, but unofficially, the family of the dead boy were trying to get us released to the custody of the Army. This meant that they planned on taking us somewhere  we ultimately would be shot while trying to escape. 

This is simply how it worked, and I understood this fully. I could not relay this information to Peter because he was too new to Mexico and would immediately freak out if he knew this fact, so I concealed it. I spoke Spanish and Peter did not which helped me keep the truth from him. At least until I could figure something out.

We spent about 10 days in this hellhole; 1 single cell about 15 feet long and maybe 10 feet wide with 15 people or so in it; no bathroom and no shower. We had agreed that one corner was to be the toilet area as they had not even provided us a bucket. We were provided a mop and bucket every couple of days to clean it up; not fun. 

The funniest part of the experience was that on Saturday night two different cops came in carrying the main cop that had been watching us in the daytime. He had gotten very drunk and his fellow officers had arrested him and threw him in the jail with us. He was loud and his buddies were beating on him with their nightsticks and yelling at him to shut up.

We found ourselves prostrated from heat one afternoon when we heard a small voice coming from the door of the cell. Peter. Tony. Are you boys in there? There was a small Mexican lady at the door speaking perfect English and asking for us? We were mystified and even more so when we spoke to her and she got us taken out of the cell and into the office of the Chief of Police.

As we started talking with the lady, Mary Aravelo, we learned that she was a Mexican-American missionary and her husband was a pastor in a church south of Zihaut in a town called San Jeronimito. No one knew she was actually born in the US and had moved to Mexico with her husband and had been there for 20 plus years. The important fact here is that some many years in the past when there were upheavals in the local government in the State of Guerrero (a common event) the Police Chief had been a young cop and was on the run from the rest of the cops. Mary and her husband hid him from the authorities that were looking for him, thus, he owed Mary and she was about to collect on the debt.

I mentioned earlier that this was a very small jail and in fact, this event had swelled the population of the jail from 2 prisoners to about 18 or so. This place was so not ready, that they forgot to search us while being checked in. I still had my package with the money in it.  While talking with the Police Chief and Mary Arevalo, the other officers decided that since we were in the office of their boss, it was time to search us. Thankfully, when they found the package in my pocket they turned it over to the Chief who taped it up and put it in his safe in front of me and promised me that I would get every penny back. Knowing Mexico the way I did, I doubted this to say the least. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this Police Chief was a very honorable guy.

As we continue talking, I learn about the Chief’s past and that he considers Mary a Saint (as she very well may be), the Chief gives Mary permission to use his phone and allows me to make a call to the Consulate in Mexico City. The US Consul basically tells me that we are on our own and that we should get a lawyer, DUH?  So were kind of depressed, but Mary told us not to give up and that she will be back.

Two days later we were again brought out of the cell, this time to meet a fireplug of a man by the name of Roger Chartier, his wife, and Mary Arevalo were there. Roger was the Canadian Consul General and had flown from Mexico D.F. to Acapulco, rented a car, and he and his wife had driven north to Zihuatanejo to do their best at getting us out. Their best worked. Roger told me the story of how he had arrived in Zihuatanejo and gone to the office of the Agente de Ministereo de Publico and literally picked up the guy off his feet and told him that he was welcome to stay at my home in Acapulco, anytime you want. 

THIS IS HOW THINGS REALLY GET DONE IN MEXICO… money helps, but it’s really about who you know, not how much money you have. Roger had obtained our release and we were free to go. Just that quickly. Obviously, we were ecstatic and a few minutes later we were in a car on our way south to San Jeronimito.
Upon arriving in San Jeronimito we learned how Mary Arevalo had found out about us in the jail and how it started that she was going to try to help us. There had been another prisoner in the jail that was from her village and when he was released, he told Mary and her husband about us and that we were being taken out and beaten every night to try to get us to confess. 

 Actually it was not Peter and I that were being beaten by the cops; they were taking Adam and Oscar out every night and working them over to get them to sign a declaration against us; that we were the killers. I had been telling Adam and Oscar, if I was able to get out that I would come back for them and asked them to please hold on and not sign what they were asking them to do.

While we were taking showers and changing clothes (the Chief was a man of his word and all of our property and my money was returned to us), we found out that the entire village knew who we were and there was a big party being held that night in our honor. We made many friends that night and learned that many people in this village had been praying for our safety and our release. We were overwhelmed by this situation and frankly were amazed as well. People that didn’t even know us; cared about us.

I told Mary that I had a problem. I had to go back and try to get the other 2 guys out. I was told by both Roger and Mary that I was crazy and that we should just get in the car with them and drive back to Acapulco and leave it alone. I could not do that, I had to try. I had given my word.  They again told me I was crazy and that they had to go home and they could not help us again if we got in trouble. Mary did make arrangements for a truck for us for the next day and the 4 of us went back to Zihuatanejo the next day.

When we arrived at the Agente office, we were told that we were pushing it and that we should get out of town! I explained that honor required me to return and this got the Agente’s attention; we were told that we could have Adam upon paying a small fine, but that Oscar had signed a confession the night before and we should leave town immediately. I paid a small fine and they gave us Adam. There was nothing that could be done about Oscar. 

We went to the airport and got on a plane to Mexico D.F. and returned Adam to his family. They were ecstatic to see him, had not known what had happened, but were overjoyed to see their father and husband alive and well. This was Adam’s first plane trip and he was great to watch as he was so excited. I was depressed about Oscar but knew there was nothing else I could do about it. I was just happy we were able to get Adam and he said Oscar couldn’t take the pain of the beatings any longer. I had been beaten and tortured by the JPF in another encounter and understood completely.

After saying goodbye to Peter in Mexico D.F. I got on a bus back to Oaxaca and met up with Graham who had been wondering where the hell I had been. We arranged for our load to be put on a plane shot, but that is another story. Graham and I hopped on a plane to Mexico D.F. and back to Vallarta and took about 20 kilos of sinsemilla with us through the D.F. and Vallarta airports (which is crazy, but I have never been accused of having a small pair) and we returned to Casa de Alacron with 20 kilos of Oaxaca’s best from the Ocotlan de Morelos Valley………………………..Tony Collins