Sala de Fiestas
Once over on the other side of the tracks, we checked out the first bar we came to. The street sign read, “Tex Mex and Cumbia.” Obviously “Tex Mex” was a combination of Texan and Mexican, which we found out to be a regional Southwestern cuisine. Cumbia, we found out was a traditional Mexican dance, which I would later learn to play as a Latin percussionist in years to come. Needless to say, the clientele were mostly Mexican; however a few black guys were also hanging out. There were a few older voluptuous women (señoras) standing around in clad bright colored Mexican peasant blouses looking for a drink and a dance. One of them was showing shoulders and cleavage. Most of the younger señoritas were dressed in less traditional attire.We were in the joint no more than 10 minutes, when some Mexican dudes started fussing with a black brother who had danced with one of the señoritas. After the interruption, the gal came over and confided in me saying, “We all is the same. The gringos don’t like any of us.”
Evidently, the gals didn’t mind conversing and dancing with black dudes. On the other hand, the Mexican hombres weren’t going for any of it. After the Chicanos had a brief dialog in Spanish, one of them came over to me and said in English, “She’s not Mexican; she’s Mexican’t. Meaning she can’t dance with you. ¿Comprende Amigo?” So before things became more heated, I and Tibbs made a B-line for the door, with the other brothers soon to follow.
The town was very hickey looking, and reminded me of small towns in South Jersey. There were no row houses, tenements, or projects. The homes were mostly single ranch type dwellings.
As airmen in town, we had to be leery of the locals. Many of them were known to hustle guys from the base. They’d run all sorts of con games and scams. There were pimps, prostitutes, panhandlers and more. One guy offered to escort us around and show us the ropes for a nominal fee. Others would lie in wait for airmen to get drunk in order to roll them—the traditional method of ripping off soldiers and sailors. Some would pretend to be broke airmen needing money to get back to the base. When looking for a mark, they’d first scope us out to see if we were drunk, or if we were friendly and approachable. With all the swindles goings on, this section of town could have used an old fashion bunco squad.
Once I spent overnight with another airman in a sleazy motel; where the front desk attendant was a shady character who attempted to hustle us for some prostitutes living on the premises. My partner told the guy we weren’t tricks and to just give us a room for the night. To sum up, we considered ourselves to be hip city slickers, and we weren’t going to be hustled by these local yokels.