I’m not proud of it. I wish I hadn’t done it. I did earn a substantial amount of money in a short period of time, but I still look back on the experience with regret.
I worked as an Interpreter, interpreting from English to Spanish during meetings between the Mexican, Eduardo and an Englishwoman called Jane and a Korean chap calling himself James.
The ‘business’ deal took place in a small city called Colima, between Guadalajara and Mexico’s picturesque Pacific coast.
The one thing I remember most about the meetings, apart from the wads of cash that were placed in my hands upon their completion, was the desperate desire to shower after each interaction with these people. I just felt dirty.
Jane, the woman from northern England, was a middle-aged divorcee with questionable business practices who had spent her substantial earnings on plastic surgery, which still couldn’t disguise the visible signs of aging. She had a perturbing habit of addressing me as “daaarling” and placing her hand on me every time she addressed me.
James, meanwhile, spoke some English, which he employed in the most part to boast about the amount of money he had earned, was earning and would earn in the future.
Eduardo was even worse. He was a chain smoking 40-something Mexican with excessive jewellery, a mansion, too many cars, a casual, sleazy arrogance, flinching eyes and a trophy wife.
Even before the first meeting, the true character of all of the parties involved became clearly apparent. Jane and James cornered me and demanded that I reproach Eduardo on the content of a few short emails that had been sent before their arrival in Mexico. Essentially, the emails promised an insufficient amount of merchandise for the visitors in return for the money they were offering Eduardo.
Eduardo, and his associate Luis, reciprocated this sentiment with claims that Jane and James were attempting to rip them off and were being grossly unreasonable.
The first meeting began with a volley of expletives.
Jane and James let fly with insults and expletives which I was expected to interpret into Spanish, event though most Mexicans have a very firm grasp of most English swear words. Eduardo and Luis returned with ‘groserias’ of their own, which I was required to interpret as accurately as possible.
One of the rules of interpreting is to convey the message between both parties as accurately as possible and in first person, speaking directly to the person receiving the message. The interpreter is merely a conveyor of the message and must always attempt to avoid softening conversations or adding their own meaning, tone, opinion or content. Thus, I spent about 20 minutes insulting a Mexican drug dealer.
I think I had two showers that night.
Luckily, this first meeting was conducted in the lobby of a hotel, which helped the participants to eventually arrive at some degree of civility for the remainder of the conversation.
After a few hours, prices for merchandise were roughly agreed to, I got paid and I went home.
I was asked to work the next day as well. Despite the character of the ‘businesspeople’, I agreed because the money was to good to refuse and the work was not particularly difficult.
The second meeting took place on a Sunday at Eduardo’s house. I didn’t know where that was so it was agreed that Luis would collect me as he lived not too far from my apartment.
Herein occurred one of the most ironic moments of the entire experience.
Luis collected me, with his wife and two children, directly after he had attended church on Sunday morning. His wife made polite conversation then soon asked me if I was religious. I explained that I was not in the habit of attending church and she essentially criticised me for this and questioned the morality and values of anyone who does not attend church regularly. Luis concurred. I will never forget the irony of having my morals questioned by someone who worked as the ‘accountant’ for a drug dealer. Maybe he went to confession – a lot.
Then again, I worked for the same drug dealer so maybe I am of poor character.
We squeezed past the ostentatiously expensive cars in the driveway and were confronted with the stale stench of tobacco and the youth of Eduardo’s plastic trophy wife.
The conversation again involved demands for more money or merchandise, more “daaarling” and touching and more displays of bravado. It ended when Eduardo had emptied a packet of cigarettes and offered to take Jane and James to see his merchandise and visit the port of Manzanillo the next day. Manzanillo is about a 40-minute drive from Colima down the highway and the ‘businesspeople’ were expected to spend a good many hours visiting the port and discussing methods of transporting the merchandise from Colima to its eventual destination.
I was again invited to attend and even though I was sick of these people, and had run out of soap, I agreed because I calculated the hourly rate and the number of hours I would spend with the party and, again, the ‘lana’ was too good to refuse.
I was told what time I would be collected the next day, then Luis dropped me home. Was this going to be a problem – that he knew where I lived?
This is when things turned sour.
I spent an entire day with these sleazy, unethical, greedy, materialistic, foul-mouthed businesspeople – and didn’t get paid.
I spent about 12 hours in their unpleasant company and Eduardo refused to pay me.
He claimed that I wasn’t working because in between the visit to the site of his merchandise, and the visit to the port of Manzanillo, we all had lunch and drinks and passed some time socialising.
Admittedly, I didn’t pay for my food, which was good quality, but I didn’t partake of any alcohol, thinking that I was still working. The truth is that if I had not been there, conversation would not have flowed as freely as the alcohol. I remember returning from the bathroom once to see James struggling to impress the party with a description of the latest car he had purchased.
Eduardo did not accept my requests for payment. I had worked 12 hours for nothing.
The payment was actually handled by Luis, the “accountant”. I called, messaged and emailed Luis during the next week, demanding to be paid for the work I had done. He initially refused to pay me, then he just refused to reply.
I realised communicating with Luis was futile. I wanted my money, so I went to see Eduardo.
Yes, I walked straight up to the front door of the house of a Mexican drug dealer, by myself, at night and demanded that he give me money.
It was only in hindsight that I realised how ill-advised, naïve and even dangerous this was. It was also only in hindsight that I realised who Eduardo really was.
The entire time I had worked as an interpreter, I thought the merchandise on offer was iron ore. The meetings had discussed prices for iron ore, the site we visited was a mining site extracting iron ore and the section of the port in Manzanillo offered facilities for the transportation of iron ore.
Jane and James were interested in purchasing iron ore.
However, according to friends of mine in Colima who knew of Eduardo, he had clearly not amassed his wealth solely from the sale of iron ore.
He may own some of the iron ore deposits he claimed to own, they explained to me, but he definitely does not own all of them and he does not own enough iron ore to explain the collection of a mansion, a row of luxury cars, the boat, the ranch, the jewellery and a pretty young wife. This is also when I learned that Eduardo had acquired the trophy wife after walking out on his first wife, who was the mother of his children.
Unfortunately, I only learned of Eduardo’s ‘business dealings’ after I had approached Eduardo in his house and demanded that he give me money. I left that short meeting after he kicked me out of his house with a tirade of ‘groserias’ in English and Spanish and with a deep sense of frustration that I had not been paid. I realise now I might have been lucky to have left the meeting in one piece.
When I told friends about visiting Eduardo’s house, they were visibly shocked and quickly advised me to leave the matter – forget about the money and stay away from Eduardo.
I also learned later how Luis had gone about finding an interpreter for the meetings. The afternoon before the first meeting, he had simply wandered around one of the local language academies looking for any ‘gringo’ who spoke Spanish and asking them if they wanted to earn some cash. One of these foreigners was a British friend of mine who was initially attracted by the proposal but had a prior engagement, so rang me and put Luis and I in contact.
I never did get the rest of my money from Eduardo. I saw him a few times during the remainder of my time in Colima, including on one occasion when he was conducting a very shifty conversation with the driver of a car who had stopped in the middle of the road. I was tempted to run him over but feared that his associates might come and find me.
So, if you’re in Colima and you meet Eduardo Esparza Cuentas, tell him he owes me money.