(Vice) Ishmael remembers the first time he smuggled people over the waist-high wall at the U.S.-Mexico border near the Mexican city of Tecate some three years ago. Although hungover and tired he managed to get his six pollos (literally chickens but smuggler slang for people") across without getting caught. As a people smuggler locally he was paid a mere $300 for every group he moved across. But there is less and less work these days. People-smugglers like him are increasingly out of a job because Mexican cartels here are shifting their focus from human to drug smuggling routes into the United States. Born and bred in Tecate Ishmael agreed to meet in a small park. We shifted our talking spot to the shady graduated seating of a nearby sports field after he got detained and searched by the local police while he was waiting. In a black and white baggy Raiders shirt tight white socks pulled up to midcalf shaved head and tattoos Ishmael is immediately recognizable as a cholo. The only person who bothers us here is a homeless guy investigating a nearby bin. Tecate feels calm almost sleepy compared to nearby Tijuana. The hot sun puts people in the shade.
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