Xico, Veracruz—According to legend, a young man asked the devil to help him “win” a woman’s heart. The devil said: “Yes, but you have to build me a bridge during a single night.” The young man agreed to the deal. He was missing just one stone—the cornerstone—when the rooster crowed, and so the devil took his soul. The devil finished the brige and stamped his handprint—more like a claw—on it. Since then, it is known as “The devil’s bridge,” a crucial point that connects Xalapa, capital of Veracruz, with other important cities of the state, such as Córdoba and Orizaba.
Crossing this bridge, my friend and I had an issue with our bikes and had to look for help. We were in a very small poor colony named “Puerto Rico,” and we weren’t sure how long we had to walk to find a mechanic. By asking, we came to a house where a 20-year-old man, Christian, offered his help. He was the older of three siblings. None of them were at school because, due to the covid-19 pandemic, the Mexican government decided that classes must be taken online. This in a country where most of the children live in places like Puerto Rico where they have no access to the internet or even to a computer! While Christian was fixing our bikes, Rodrigo, 10, began chatting with us.
“My brother loves bikes. My dad is a mechanic and taught him everything about them. He had a workshop, but since he couldn’t earn enough money with it, he had to get a job at Bimbo. My brother then took over the bike business, but it demanded so much time that he couldn’t even do his homework. He removed the ‘We fix bikes’ sign and devoted himself completely to school. Now he just fixes them from time to time. Besides, the sign was just made of cardboard, and we had to take it down every time it rained.”
Rodrigo had never heard about the legend of “The devil’s bridge.” He just knew that, “There have been a lot of car accidents there.” If not for anything else, this could now be called “The devil’s road.” On one side of the bridge, there is an enormous Coca Cola plant. Its monster trucks cross the road day and night. On the other side, there is a Bimbo factory. A Nestlé factory is not far from there. These three corporations have taken over the region and have forced the locals, such as Rodrigo’s family, to stop laboring on their land and be exploited for less than minimum wage—a modern “deal” with the devil.
A noise comes from the backyard of Rodrigo’s house. It is his mother hanging the clothes from a rope. She is a full-time housewife. Her third child, a teenage girl around 15, never left the house while we were there, probably taking care of the dishes and the meal. Christian gives us back our bikes and charges us a very low price for his huge help. At the beginning of our chat, Rodrigo had asked us: “Where are you from?” “From the same place as you—we replied—Mexico.” “No, I am not from Mexico,” he said, “I am from Puerto Rico.” We replied, “We come from Mexico City, a gray sad place without any rivers or trees, like the ones you still have around here.”
We left with sadness in our hearts, wishing we could, at least, help this family with a decent sign for their bike business.