By Pato Che
On a September afternoon, someone knocks on the door of the SOS Children’s Village of Comitan, Chiapas. His job is to deliver merchandise whose real valor is way superior to the 50.000 pesos (USD $5.000) written on the receit.
A washing machine, sofas, desks, “princess” pillows, ladders, shelves and galons of milk are some of the items that the children of this non-profit organization will receive. At the same time, two other trucks are on their way to the Villages of Huehuetoca and Toluca, in the state of Mexico.
We like to think of Nestor, the director, telling the children that the donation was made possible thanks to this band of crazy ones who came not so long ago in a van and tended the aerial fabric from the trees. “Remember? the ones who came with the puppy”.
It was only a few months ago that Nestor decided to break some of the rules of the organization and opened the doors of the Village so we could shoot a documentary inside the homes and about the extraordinary work the foster mothers do with those children, “survivors” of at-risk situations.
The images we shot greatly moved some people of the biggest corporations of Northern Mexico and proved at the same time that not everyone in Monterrey is “cheap.”
Besides the $30.000 dollars in donation, the inhabitants of Monterrey –called “Regios”– showed great interest in our project and surprised us with their great hospitality.
The Northern Sultana
Protected by the Canyon of the Huasteca, Adelita opens up her path inside the Eastern Mountain Range along the highway that connects Saltillo and Monterrey. In the background stands “El Cerro de la Silla” (Saddle Hill), landmark of Monterrey.
Land of accordions and six-string guitars, this young city has won the nickname of “Industrial Capital of Mexico”, thanks to the boom of cast iron and its proximity to the United States. Some of the most important firms of the country (Cemex, Femsa, Vitro) have their headquarters in town; its GDP per capita is one of the highest in Latin America.
It is said that its people, wearing sombreros, boots and speaking with a strong accent are “stingy,” “conceited” and “act like gringos.” However, away from those stereotypes, those who live in Monterrey are an example of hard-work, solidarity and generosity.
Our goal in town is to get our Canadian visas and answer the invitation of a few medias.
Our first interview is set with Hora Cero, a newspaper where Moy, Emma and Pato Che’s mutual friend, used to work for. The meeting takes place in the middle of the emblematic Macroplaza and the photo shoot will be extended all the way into the historic center.
Unfortunately, the article won’t be printed there since El Norte, one of the most important newspapers of the region and headquarters of the powerful Grupo Reforma, chose to do it first. The same happened with El Horizonte who, in spite of the long conversation we had with them and the beautiful photo shoot, decided that the story wasn’t worth telling anymore. That’s why the medias of the north are said to be competitive.
The fifth power (the one dreams give)
In El Norte, the article only used up a small part of the first page of the “Life” section; nonetheless, it provoked a huge and unexpected avalanche of reactions. Not all of them were good, though. On the internet version of the article, some were prolix in saying we were just a group of “young hippies” and wounded Pato Che’s pride when they insinuated that he knew nothing of mechanics.
As if we lived in a parallel universe, in our daily lives, we were showered with compliments and notes of support. We received contacts in Alaska, were invited to Portland, OR, USA, were sent Moleskine agendas as gifts, were invited for an interview with “Radio Fórmula” and were proposed to add the logo of a famous brand of batteries on Adelita’s hood –the latest couldn’t be done in order not to betray the altruist vision of the project.
However, there was one invitation that was different: it was the one made by the journal City Life directed by Soriana, the country’s biggest chain of supermarkets.
One minute of glamour
Making the decision wasn’t simple. Not long ago, the chain had been swallowed into a political scandal: apparently, it had sold prepaid cards which money was used to buy votes in order to reelect the PRI to the presidency.
Nevertheless, we concluded that we would go to the interview, with the one and only condition to negotiate some kind of benefit for the children of SOS Children’s Villages, an NGO that only works with donations.
This is how, for the first time ever, a dog walked along the corridors of the big chain’s offices. Without knowing it, Chai was making history.
The photo shoot was a lot of fun. We were very nervous to be in front of the cameras but Iris and Brenda did their best to make us feel comfortable. They showed so much interest in the project that they even considered the idea of having it on the front page of the journal September edition, patriotic month in Mexico.
After a long interview, came the moment to ask for a donation. It only took us five minutes to convince our hosts and a bit later, we found ourselves in front of the person in charge of donations in the firm.
Not only were the donations in cash well-respected, but we also talked about a national campaign of awareness for their clients –asking them to give out their change for the association. We truly hope it can be organized soon.
As a proof of this little victory, Polo a Polo was on the front page in the magazine that was distributed to all the City Club stores of the country for a whole month. Before that, the journal’s first page had only focused on TV series characters and elite athletes, like “Chicharito” Hernández.
With VW style
When Regiobus, the town club of Volkswagen vans, organized a farewell caravan in our honor in the streets of Monterrey, it was the icing on the cake.
The meeting point was in front of the United States Consulate on Nation Plaza. The beetles of Cuatesvolks also joined the party.
The successors of Ferdinand Porsche all ended up in the middle of a scene that could have been taken from a movie of the 70’s, under a magnificent sunset over the flanks of Saddle Hill.
When it was time to go, fits of laughter could be heard all along the Avenue of the Constitution as various vans, including Adelita, needed a push to start the journey.
It is hard to forget the sound of the horns and shouts of support of all those who came to see the odd caravan straight out of the past.
Back at the meeting point, we all gathered around the typical barbecue. All that could be heard were talks about travels and mechanical advice. We were even given a small camping stove, which is now part of our daily routine.
The following day, once the engine was repaired again, we arrived safely in Saltillo to meet with Pancho, our official mechanic, who was to put the final touches that would allow us to hit the road towards the United States, at last.
To Mamá Mihi, for her endurance.
To Nancy and Paco, for their contact with El Norte.
To Iris and Brenda, at City Club.
To Mónica Patiño, for the beautiful pictures in Brisas.
To Liliana Ivette González, at Radio Fórmula Monterrey.
To Moy, for the contact with Hora Cero.
To Jorge Escalante Castillo and all the members of Regiobus.
To Miguel of Moleskine, for the gift of the agendas.
To Carlos Potes, for all his support and contacts in Alaska.
To Lencha, for their interest in Chai’s security.
To Luis Cantu, for inviting us in Portland, OR, USA.
To Alfonso López, for his wanting to be part of the project.
To Néstor Piñeiro, for having trusted us in Comitán, Chiapas.
To Francisco Alcántara, for his reliability.