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American kids in Mexico in 1970 was different than now, but there were similarites. Sun, sand, palm trees, the ocean, spanish speaking people. Right up until my brother and I went there, though, vendors safely strolled the strand selling pot, and "we" safely and joyfully indulged in a bit of local flavor. Or, really, things started changing in the months before our personal "spring break", but some changes just take time to become fully absorbed.

So we're camping and toking, and joking and enjoying right up until the federales pulled up, pulled their badges and guns, and explained in broken english that the guy that just dropped off that last bag of glorious, but dirt cheap buds worked for them. However, there was a definite price tag for "amnesty". And then, sadly, because we had just spent everything but the little bit of gas money for one last blast before we hit the road north the next morning, it was explained that we needed to be taken to prison instead.

And this was right after Nixon had started focusing on the connection between hippies, drug violations, and loss of voting privileges, so what might have costs us a hundred dollar bill initially, ended up costing our family a few thousand dollars, and us a court process that had recently been stretched from a few days to 8 to 10 months to complete.

On the positive side, however, we did meet some pretty colorful characters while we spent most of the rest of that year locked up.

You don't want to think about prison in Mexico in 1970 in terms of what you think you know about prison. Drugs, yes. Alcohol, yes. Homosexual sex, yes, but paid for and consensual. Hetrosexual sex yes, but paid for, consensual, and no limit on availability. Instead of making false claims about rehabilitation, it was throw them all inside, and put armed guards on the walls to keep them there. Period.

And then, of course, there was the unique Mexican flavor of things. One example: a traffic accident turns into a criminal event given the inability of an at fault driver to pay for damages on the spot. We literally shared a prison with a truck driver for the circus who crashed, killing the elephant he was carrying, and was expected to stay locked up unless and until he could give enough money to the circus to buy another elephant.

So, underpaid guards required to buy their own bullets, even for target practice. Check. Guards required to complete the sentences of persons escaping on their watch. Check. Prisoners having a right, based in natural law, to seek freedom without additional penalty for attempting escape. Check. (But if you tried and failed you could sure as hell expect to get a full on ass whipping.)

Which brings me to the guy who, more than anyone else, helped me get locked up a good number of years farther down the road for far longer than that in a many, many ton marijuana smuggling case. Man, I was young and dumb, and he was actually a great guy in alot of ways, but we were nothing nothing alike. He was busted hundreds of miles closer to the border than where we met him at, but then there was that unfortunate incident where he was found on the roof of the Nogales lockup with a loaded pistol, and a glint of freedom in his eye. And to his credit, that glint never went away.

Anyway, long story short he passed me a couple of hundred bucks one day and said "If you don't need this to save my ass in a couple of hours, it's yours. Wish me luck." Because the wheels were always turning, someone ended up wanting him out enough to bribe a judge to make it happen (in "a little while") and started the process by getting an initial court hearing scheduled. And then animal instinct took over. In the form of "Hey guys (to the escort guards on the way back from a very successful court session) I know I'm almost out of here but I could sure use a cold brew to celebrate, and I'm buying. How about it?"

And then they stopped, and he drank the beer, and then he ran, and finally the drink in his belly dragged his legs down enough for the crowd chasing under hue and cry to catch up, and then he was smothered under their bodies, and then he was dragged back, beat up, and sent down to the isolation level. And then I passed his reserve money into the right hands and he came right back up to population, looking pretty bad but still happy that he tried, and then he went on to Plan B or C or whatever it was, and it only took, like, another year to show up at my place on the outside, and things went from there.

And then one day I got my 25 year sentence, and he got his life sentence, and god only knows when this whole Drug War mess will end for all of us.

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