Juan Manuel Rodriquez, ‘El Sica’, arrested today in Tijuana, is accused of being a lookout for organized crime, operating in a criminal cell loyal to Fernando Sanchez Arellano, ‘El Ingeniero’. The 21 year old is also accused of a string of violent robberies targeting convenience stores, grocery shops, and banks. Authorities described ‘El Sica’ as an ‘important piece of a criminal cell’, I’d say just the opposite. ‘El Sica’ represents the lost youth of a generation in Tijuana, and all over Mexico, children who dedicate their lives to criminal organizations, because of economic hardship, or more material reasons. If the latter was the case for ‘Sica’, the life has certainly failed him, in that regard. It is noted that he received $500 a week for his services, a sum which I am skeptical off, if in US dollars. I’d guess a bottom level halcon like this, who was stealing from supermarkets would be worth 500 a week. In addition to this questionable fee, he received an ounce of crystal, of which he was likely a user, if not addict. The drugs could be used and sold, stringing him along in the criminal enterprise, not being skilled, or valuable enough to rise beyond his lowly position, as an errand boy, and accomplice to murder. Certainly the cell of ‘El Lic’, his alleged boss, will be able to move on without ‘El Sica’.
These halcones operate as practically indentured servants to organize crime, sacrificing everything for minimal pay and protection. These youth are pawns in scenarios far beyond their scope and level of knowledge, and either work with the facts of who and what they are, or go on, oblivious to them. In the ongoing battles for control in the city, these are the frontline soldiers, who are murdered, mutilated, and decorated with messages. When they are arrested they are linked to traffickers and cells, of which they likely had minimal to no knowledge of. Or perhaps, they sung the corridos of Engineer and CAF, raised their whiskeys in honor of the fallen fore fathers of their organization, and dreamed of prominence, kilos of cocaine and beach front estates, while walking the streets of Zona Norte, prowling Calle Coahuila , nextel in hand. Awaiting orders from above, while doing hand to hand drug deals, for less then $20 at a time, in back alleys and dingy strip bars.
In a fractured and devastated economy, organized crime and cartels is an option with Tijuana’s youth, families that thrived on the tourist industry find themselves crippled as tourism, at least with any profit as all but ceased in the city. I remember, in a different time, Revolucion filled with people, crowded nightclubs, with patrons stumbling out onto the streets, in the early morning hours. These streets are essentially deserted, the halcones and narcomenudistos outnumber the tourists. The only growing industry is the retail drug trade, which is at the heart of the executions and conflicts, providing employment to these children, for whom better options are almost nonexistent. It is easy for some to denounce these children, many far younger then Rodriquez, and cry for their death and punishment. I look at this face, and see someone, who would likely rob me in an instant, but also someone who probably never had much of chance in life, and who has reached the end of his. Halcones are practically the walking dead in Tijuana, but the corridos and crystal keep the hope alive, as they roam the streets, free and alive for another day.