Home > Uncategorized > Pages 404-465: The Police

Pages 404-465: The Police

When I tell you of my own reaction to characters, in this case some members of the police force, I am actually expressing my curiosity as to whether others reacted to them differently. I am not proposing that my reading of them is the reading of them, God knows.

Yet, how can we not be favorably disposed toward Olegario Cura Expósito, a sixteen-year-old kid raised in poverty in Villaviciosa who displays integrity and no small amount of courage? And how does he make it out of poverty? Through his skill and courage amid violence. La locura. Lunacy.

Through him we are introduced to the two scumbags who are also bodyguards for Pedro Rengifo’s wife, one from the state of Jalisco and the other from Chihuahua—Ciudad Juárez in the state of Chihuahua, to be exact. I do not recall any other mention of Ciudad Juárez to this point in the book. Santa Teresa is in the state of Sonora. (By the way, we are finally told explicitly that Pedro Rengifo is a narcotraficante at page 463.)

Then Lalo is a cop at the age of 17. Did you notice that he underwent any extensive training at some police academy? I did not. Nonetheless, he starts taking home and studying texts on law enforcement, texts in which obviously nobody else at the precinct has ever had any interest. He maintains his distance from drinking with the other cops or partaking in the gang rape of arrested whores in the jail. Page 401. The kid is going to be a good cop if he survives.

That in itself does not give us any hope that he will accomplish anything. This is the lesson that we take from Harry Magaña, I think. Harry is a tough, relentless, smart crime investigator. This place simply swallows him up and kills him.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Juan de Dios Martínez is a good cop, too, but as a veteran he appears to me to be only going through the motions of being a good cop. He seems to accept the incompetence around him as a limit on what he can accomplish with nary a protest. There is a fatalism about him.

Apropos of I don’t know what, consider this passage regarding one of his trysts with Elvira Campos:

Darling, Juan de Dios Martínez would say to her sometimes, sweetheart, love, and in the darkness she would tell him to be quiet and then suck every last drop from him—of semen? of his soul? of the little life he felt, at the time, remained to him?

Page 424.

. . . of the little life he felt, at the time, remained to him? What is that all about? Perhaps it is post-coital depression, something I have only read about. Anyway, I do not know exactly, but this cannot bode well for his state of mind. Beyond that, it is remarkable how little we know of him given the amount of text devoted to him.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Epifanio is a comic incompetent. Someone elsewhere wrote of the incident when he retrieved Isabel Urrea’s address book, obviously a very valuable piece of evidence that everyone else ignored. As was pointed out, he himself did nothing with it either. But he goes further than admitting that he did nothing with it. He congratulates himself on the fact that he did not telephone some of the prominent people whose names appeared there and blackmail them. Page 463.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I was struck by a story told about Inspector Ángel Fernández at page 460. In spite of the fact that the medical examiner’s report stated that Emilia Escalante Sanjuán died of strangulation, in his report Fernández listed the cause of death as alcohol poisoning. Obviously, this was a way to close the file because Emilia was only a whore–practically a whore anyway. Page 460.

There follows immediately some of the most harrowing reading in this section of the book in the form of the cops’ discussion of “three-way” rapes, a full rape of all five orifices, etc. I think that all of us are willing to accept the proposition that policemen become hardened in their profession. They become hardened as a kind of psychological self-defense mechanism. However, coupled with the rape of the whores in the jail, I could not accept this in that light.

The good cops are the exception here, and they are impotent. The bad cops are the rule, and they are nasty bad.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

In the same sense that I earlier proposed that this is not a “crusader novel,” nor is it a “who-dunnit” novel. Has anyone else noticed that as we read on in this novel, the issue of who is killing the young women becomes strangely beside the point in a very real way?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I still have written nothing concerning the illegal dump known as El Chile as I said I would last week. I will sometime.

–Steve Brassawe

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. David Winn
    March 18, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Quote: “In the same sense that I earlier proposed that this is not a “crusader novel,” nor is it a “who-dunnit” novel. Has anyone else noticed that as we read on in this novel, the issue of who is killing the young women becomes strangely beside the point in a very real way?”

    Absolutely. The idea of a serial killer seems to be just one more way to avoid confronting the larger, more, I don’t know, structural/political/economic/metaphysical reasons for the killings. That said, the action of The Part About the Crimes takes place over the course of 5 or 6 years, and we are still pretty early in the section, so I suppose it’s still plausible for the reader and some of the characters to imagine that a single person or small group of people are responsible.

    I agree that this is not a crusader novel, nor is it a social novel a’la The Corrections. But I definitely think that it has a political point of view, if not a didactic political message. And, to the extent that the politics of the novel compete with whatever point it’s making about some sort of trans-historical human tendency toward brutality, then by definition the novel can hold out only so much hope.

    • March 18, 2010 at 11:29 am

      “. . . then by definition the novel can hold out only so much hope.”

      Very well put, David. And regarding the point you make in your second paragraph, I think that a little Yeats is apt:

      Turning and turning in the widening gyre
      The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
      Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
      Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
      The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
      The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
      The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity.

  1. March 19, 2010 at 7:13 pm
  2. March 21, 2010 at 12:00 pm

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