19. The low-key jazz of illicit assignation: Ecatepec

Walking around the edge of the city I stayed in cheap hotels and motels. I chose them to be as close to the route as possible, sometimes exactly on the edge, sometimes inwards. These hotels are practically all directed towards sexual trysts. Housewives sleeping with the neighbor’s husband, teenagers evading parents, office affairs, irregular combinations of strange and illicit desires, potentially explosive love affairs permeate the hushed corridors, the silence only broken by the occasional giggle or moan.

These hotels are anonymous. No names are required nor any formal register, just the crisp whisper of a few hundred pesos notes and you have a bed for the night. The owners can be very strict with the hours and rather than having check-out times, they set time limits. Twice it happened that I was turned out of my bed at six o’clock because I had checked in twelve hours before.

Walking into the colonia Luis Donaldo Colosio in Ecatepec in the early evening I found my favorite. I had not expected a hotel here and the mere fact of its existence was gratifying after just running across the Circuito Exterior Mexiquense and crossing the black waters of Gran Canal, the huge sewage conduit leading out of the city. On a wide unpaved dirt avenue under electricity towers stood a copy of the famous Hotel California in La Paz, Baja California.

The hotels I stayed at ranged from luxury hotels in Santa Fe and the airport to metal frame beds in bare rooms in Chalco and Tecamac. The tryst hotels tended to have closed off facades, small discrete receptions behind one way mirrors, and well appointed mini-suites as rooms. One, the hotel Tláhuac on the road from La Paz to Texcoco, had a black, opaque mirror on the ceiling. Some had sandblasted windows in front of the showers and oddly shaped furniture. Some had rotating dumbwaiters so that when you called room-service there was no contact with the personnel. When my wife came to visit me with clean clothes I felt like a gangster on the run in a Bogart movie.

The mere fact of going into such hotels unaccompanied was suspicious and reeked of perversion. On my birthday when I was curious what it would be like to sleep on a waterbed the hardened hotel personnel seemed almost disgusted. What could somebody possibly be doing alone in a hotel room? It beggars the imagination.

People flitted into and out of these hotels. Around nightfall I would ask where the nearest hotel was. Soon I learned to ask a certain kind of jovial looking man in his late thirties or forties. He would know. One would often draw a blank with younger men, no idea. To ask a girl was beyond useless, it was insulting and creepy. These hotels are hardly ever in a neighborhood. Nobody wants to be seen by a neighbor, a friend or a family member. So these places tend to be on the border between neighborhoods.

Some hotels and rooms were more sensitive to sound then others. Early one morning in the Linda Vista Inn as the sunlight slanted in the curtains from the east I heard one couple after another have intercourse. Female orgasms rolled through the rooms around me. For length, screeching and sheer bravado the most memorable consummation of sex I heard was in Valle de Chalco in a hotel with billiard room below it.

I learned to look for hotels on the more liberal urban interstices where avenues and communities meet. In Milpa Alta there were no hotels because the community banned them. There were never hotels in geographically isolated communities on hillsides or in valleys. The Hotel California in the flatlands of northern Ecatepec was no exception.

I liked the Hotel California on the edge of Ecatepec because it was discrete and tasteful. Its location was exceedingly opportune for my route. Like all the best hotels it was where I needed it to be. The tastefully decorated facade stood out from the wide dirt avenue under the electricity towers in front of it. The neighborhood was successful but of relatively recent construction, public services had yet to catch up.

The administrator was a balding young man with an engaging enthusiasm. He was wearing a baseball cap and t-shirt. He and his two brothers had worked in the United States for fifteen years in construction, learning all kinds of American high-end construction techniques. After this time they decided to return. They were all married and felt the United States had a bad influence on their children.

So they decided to build a hotel in Ecatepec with their own hands. Because they liked the Hotel California in Baja California they copied it, adapting it to local circumstances. They knew all the techniques with which it was built, curving the concrete to imitate rocks and mortar. The rooms were simple but comfortable and had a certain seaside elegance.

Due to the success of his hotel they were now going to open a disco nearby to create synergies. Perhaps later on they would build a strip club. For this kind of thing there is always money, said the manager. Bribes to police in the State of Mexico were very economical. Soon the avenue would be paved. Four people walked out of the room in the grey morning light, three disheveled men and one woman. A family? I queried. He laughed, they were no family.

I saw all kinds of people enter these hotels. Couples who had known each other a first time holding hands as they strolled over the parking lot, teenagers, campesinos, young adults celebrating the night, couples wandering off in their own worlds.

And they all looked happy walking in.