A Memory of Tampico in 1948 by an 18-year-old American
In 1948 or 1949 I went to Tampico on a Naval Reserve cruise. Back then it was like in
our movies at the time. A young Mexican fellow attached himself to our group and acted
like an interpreter. He told us that out in the countryside the Indian Villagers would
sell you a teenage girl for something like a chicken or two. He also mentioned that it was
against Mexican law but it was still done. There were street vendors with tables of a
variety of wares, knives, leather and other things that I cannot remember. At one table
were some very interesting and efficient looking knives. As I was examining his wares, the
vendor, a young fellow just older than myself, with swiftness that I have never since
seen, had the point of a narrow-blade dagger at my throat. He said, "Your money or
your life!". My first flush of anger subsided when his eyes told me that he was
having a joke. I told him, with equal mock seriousness, "My life!"
I remember the city as being very clean. There were few if any street lights and the
streets themselves were in most part very narrow. At night the rich boys would tear down
these streets without lights, never slowing down for dog or person, whether old or young.
The first time that this occurred I thought "this guy is drunk," but by the
third time I saw elder civilians barely making it across the street, then I recognized
that this was a common occurrence.
--Frank E. Olschner, Jr.