Lattes and Violence

sidewalk cafe brawl

coffee and violence After 5 weeks in Mexico, we finally got to see some violence – and it was AWESOME!

We were at a sidewalk cafe in Guanajato sipping on our lattes and watching people go by. The cafe was busy and next to us was a group of about 10 local men who’d pushed their tables together and were laughing and joking while drinking their morning coffee. They were all well-dressed, middle-class men in their 50s and 60s.

A filthy man with a torn shirt and hair so matted it looked like a dirty sponge, plopped down at the one open table and started playing his guitar and singing in a manner that would make a dog wimper and take refuge under the table. In Mexico, musicians often play songs at restaurants and then walk around asking for donations. I usually give a few pesos to these guys because they add atmosphere. This guy was such a bad singer that I almost paid him to stop!

After playing just one tortured song, He walked around to the other tables asking for tips and came to us last. I shrugged my shoulders and said no.

The dirty musician spun around, angrily thew some cookies on the ground and started yelling with flialing arms at all the men in the cafe. No one gave him any money, and he was not happy.

The old man at the head of the adjacent table jumped up and immediately started yelling back at the musician. All the other men just kept sipping their coffee and continued chatting as if nothing was happening. Kristi and I stared on with amazement.

The old man and the musician were very angry and in heated disagreement, but it was evident that they had common ground in the liberal use of the words cabron, pendejo and chinga tu madre. On a couple of occasions, the musician stepped towards the old man with a cocked fist, and the old man lifted his chair in a threatening position. They both held their ground, poised to attack. It was quite literally, a mexican standoff.

I kept waiting for the young musician to get cracked on the head by a wooden chair from a rough-and-tumble, wild west Mexican cafe that specializes in espresso and herbal tea. It reminded me of that old John Wayne western when he walked through the swinging doors, plopped down at the bar and ordered a double-soy caramel macchiato before inviting the villain next to him for a duel in the street, after he finished his chai latte, of course.

After the heated exchange, the musician gathered up his stuff and began to walk away. Another old man who was taller and larger than the musician approached from out of nowhere, and in a very nonchalant manner, reached over and slapped him across the face while saying, “Chinga tu madre!”

The young musician, reeling from the emotional and physical sting of being bitch-slapped, responded with “Chinga su madre a usted!” This killed me. He used the formal usted form to tell someone to fuck his mother.

In one last attempt to save face, the musician stepped towards the group and shouted, “NO TENGO MIEDO!” – I am not scared! He then scurried away like a very scared rodent.

The old man took his seat and was recounting the story to the guys who had just watched the encounter, offering analysis of the near fight the way a broadcaster breaks down a sporting match that just finished. Kristi caught his eye and gave him a thumbs up. He hid his face behind his hands in an exaggerated gesture of shame and then came over to join us.

“I am sorry,” he said. He wasn’t proud of the fact that he got into it with the musician and was embarrassed we had to witness the fight, sort of like a parent that feels guilty after arguing in front of the kids.

“No problem!” we said. We were happy to have some entertainment with our morning coffee and at last, after 5 weeks in the lawless land of Mexico, we finally got to see some of the famous violence.


Have you ever been in a bar fight cafe brawl in Mexico?

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34 Comments on “Lattes and Violence

  1. I knew it, Mexico is a dangerous place. So glad you and Kris survived the assault on your ears, I hope there won’t be any permanent damage!

    • Thank you. Although we were innocent bystanders, I did feel partially guilty for being the last one to say no. A few pesos from me and he may have moved on. Then again, I am pretty sure this guy was trouble.

      • Dang ol’! I thought I saw a photo taken there, but must’ve been somewhere else in Guanajuato.

        If you guys ever make it to SMA, you’ve got to visit the library and a pub called Limerick. Ha! Irish pub owned by an Argentine.

        Tonnes of other spots like La Parroquia just off El centro. Lots of ex-Pats in SMA too. Some of the Beats like Burroughs and Cassidy spent time there. Interesting mix of people. I hope to make it back there again for another extended stay.

  2. Haaaaa! That does sound awesome! I love spectacles like that. And I’m always happy when it ends in nothing but hurt feelings and pride. Especially when I’m directly involved. ha.

    • I think there was lots of hurt pride but that was about it. It was such a random thing to have happen so early in the morning. Usually alcohol is involved in something like that.

  3. Hysterical, Jeff! I knew as soon as I saw that cartoon that I was in for a treat. I can’t believe you held out so long on us for this story. It must have been burning a whole in your pocket!

    • It was sort of burning a hole in my pocket, now that I think about it. I am glad you enjoyed. That poor guy is getting humiliated all over again on the internet!

  4. At last all the warnings have proven correct. What a relief when I was thinking Mexico was just a beautiful place with beautiful people. 🙂

    • I have to tell it like it is – Mexico is a lawless land. You can’t even get a cup of coffee without something crazy going down.

    • You are welcome. Now you can shout at least three vulgar insults at people!

      How are things in Chennai? Are they getting back to normal?

  5. I knew it. I knew you were giving us the rose-colored version of Mexico, what with all the gushing and loving of the place. But here…we get the real version, the badlands, the bad men, the violence and bad music. THIS is the Mexico I love.

    • You are right. I have been lying about Mexico, trying to get rid of the negative stereotype. I can’t go on anymore. This is what it is really like.

      I forgot to mention that I was suffering from a gastrointestinal illness at the same time.

  6. I am not sure if I should feel sorry for you or just saying ‘lucky you’ – it sounds you enjoyed the scene too much 😀

    Never saw any fights when in Mexico, how disappointing! The only real fights I have seen were inside of Dutch trams! You had no ideas how brutal those tram passengers could be 😀

    • I can imagine a Dutch tram can be anarchy. I think I was lucky in the end – it is always good to have a story to tell.

  7. Pingback: Seized by winter | Eiwawar

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