Magical Realism, or Gabito Meets the Mexican Mafia

According to my dictionary, magical realism is a literary genre or style associated especially with Latin America that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction.

After this week, I would venture to say this definition is largely a North American attempt to grasp events as they naturally occur in Latin American countries. Authors may simply be writing about actual events and readers refuse to  believe it isn’t a fantabulation.  In other words, it’s just what went down. Take for instance, the case of two accused Mexican drug dealers currently being held in Costa Rica.

It all started on October 10, 2010, when a light plane went down in a gully shortly after takeoff from a small airport in the seedy suburb of Pavas, just west of San José. When police and emergency teams arrived and accessed the plane, wedged next to a roaring river, they found 170 kilos of cocaine spilling out of the fuselage where baggage is normally stowed. They transported the pilot and passenger to the hospital where they were treated for their injuries. (I believe the pilot died, but haven’t followed that part of the story.)

The following day, two Mexican nationals named Martinez and Mendoza were arrested by the Fuerza Pública (police) in the northern border town of  Peñas Blancas. According to the daily La Nacion, they were riding all terrain vehicles, baggage in tow. The assumption was that they were attempting to flee across the border into Nicaragua. The two men were handcuffed and brought back to San José.

It appears Martinez and Mendoza are the owners of the airline Aerolíneas Turísticas de América with offices and hangars at the Tobías Bolaños International airport in Pavas, an airline that only six months ago was broke. So far, this is just another criminal story that could appear in any newspaper anywhere, especially here.

The San José court decided the two were a flight risk and placed them in preventive detention, something akin to being held without bail in the USA, although in Costa Rica there doesn’t have to be any indictment in the works. They were held in La Reforma, a maximum security prison that recently has had a rash of murders and one failed prison break, but that isn’t part of this story.

Then, on May 10, 2011, seven months after their detention, Judge Kattia Jiménez Fernández, of the Pavas Criminal Court, ordered the two Mexicans released and placed under house arrest. Her reasoning, the prosecution had failed to file charges against the two men.  This augment was advanced by one of  the defense lawyers with the last name of Villalobos Salazar, not to be confused, and this is easy to do, with their other defense attorney who has the last name Villalobos Zamora.

When local residents discovered a condominium in the tony neighborhood of La Sabana was the chosen pad for the two Mexicans, they organized protests. Several other locations were bandied about with the same results. In the meantime, newly appointed Vice Minister of Security, Celso Gamboa, presented the Pavas judge with a written reprimand for her decision. It failed to dissuade her. She was then threatened with a judicial investigation by the attorney general’s office. At this time it is unclear whether that will proceed or not, but if it does it is sure to be slow.

Then, replacement Pavas criminal court judge, Joaquín Hernández, removed Villalobos Salazar from the defense team. Apparently, in the course of things, a long-time police officer of the Fuerza Pública ––the same officials who bagged the two Mexicans in their flight from Costa Rica–– told the court that he had been under pressure by Villalobos to change his story.

Los Dos Villalobos have maintained their clients were not really fleeing Costa Rica the day after the plane crash in Pavas, but rather on their way to visit family in Mexico. One has to ask about the wisdom of traveling the full length of Central America on an ATV , but this was their story and they were sticking to it. By the end of last week the replacement judge in Pavas had rejected as truth that version of their travel itinerary.

But, there was a delay in ordering the men back into preventive detention. The police officer who accused Villalobos Salazar of coercing him to change his testimony had to be reappear in court to clarify exactly which Villalobos had approached him. It turned out to be Villalobos Zamora not  Villalobos Salazar, so the judge reinstated the one and fired the other.

The Mexicans remain in La Reforma’s maximum security unit with preventive detention orders until August 2011.

I only bring this story up to illustrate that while the literary device of magical realism, “.. an aesthetic style in which magical elements or illogical scenarios appear in an otherwise realistic or even ‘normal’ setting,” we can see that one only needs to report the facts to carry it off.  Gabriel Garcia Marquez might have said it best when he noted, “My most important problem was destroying the lines of demarcation that separates what seems real from what seems fantastic.” Or, in the vernacular, you cannot make this stuff up.