“But first, my presentation.” Pepe Nacho breathes in and places his calloused right hand on his ear, pretending he has an earpiece. It’s a Wednesday morning and Pepe Nacho, a newspaper salesman, has been out in the street for a few hours, dodging cars, selling papers, waving at everyone, and telling jokes for those who stop and listen.
He wears an old blue vest from the daily El Mexicano over a red-and-yellow jacket. Completing his clown outfit are a plastic red nose, bright green whistle around his neck, and a red-and-white-striped hat that looks like it once belonged to Dr. Seuss's cat.
“Three, two, one, zero. Camera. Action!”
It didn’t take Pepe Nacho long to start rambling — I told him I was a reporter and he launched into some improvised schtick. I was holding my phone to record his voice.
“We are here in Calle Internacional...the Clown Bridge,” Pepe Nacho said hurriedly in what seemed at first a well-memorized presentation.
“Behind me is the store Smart and Final, in front is la Segunda and Plaza Mexitlan. We are here with our friend that wakes up every morning at 2:30 to grab the newspaper La Jornada de Mexico, BY FOOT, because I still haven’t had the fortune… Nor luck in love… or the insight that Pepe Nacho wishes to dream. His guajiro [simple, peasant] dreams… WAH!!”
Pepe Nacho speaks in third person, pronounces certain words long and loud, makes weird noises when he loses track, and yelps randomly out of excitement when cars drive by and honk. Despite his frenetic comic personality, he did say he’s been selling papers for 46 years.
He sells newspapers daily (except Sundays) at the end of Calle Internacional, where it bottlenecks into Via Rápida. A shopping cart decorated with several dirty toys holds a variety of newspapers. A trail of toys and other plastic items mark his territory. A large mural of Pepe Nacho by Arianna Escudero is painted not far away, near the highway that leads to the border crossing.
“'Perame 'tanito” (wait a little bit). He stops talking to me for a second and runs to a car, opens the passenger door, swiftly shuffles through a batch of papers, drops a couple into the car, and stretches his arm for a few pesos. He runs back to me and starts his show again.
“You want to hear a song about how Pepe Nacho wakes up in the morning?!”
Without letting me reply, he prepares to start singing his first notes. I stop him and tell him to save his singing for when I bring out the camera. I tell him that instead I wish to know more about Pepe Nacho.
“I first started selling papers of journalism of the fourth power… The fourth power... What? Well, yes, yes. I started when I was 8, or was it 12 years [old], with my old, old man Don Piojas Miranda, born in Guadalajara, and my querida jefa [dear mother] Agustina Martínez, La Reina de La Línea [the queen of the border line]… PRECISELY… EPAAAAAAAH… The 12th... BWAHHH... The 14 of November marks the fifth year of her death because a truck ran her over. She was — SHE IS! The queen of the line, Agustina Martínez, born in Irapuato, Guanajuato… EPAAAAAH..."
“My authentic and real name is...uhh... PEPE ECHALE AGUA! The real name of the designer, because he is a DESIGNER… "'Perame un segundo.”
Pepe Nacho again runs to a car to deliver newspapers and hurries back.
“The real name of Pepe Nacho, his designer, me. My name is Tello Martínez Miranda. Miranda from my father’s side, and Martínez from my mother’s side... Uhh…Pepe Nacho... APA!!! Is searching for a Pepe Nacha. I am hoping to God that this year I can find someone. Because since my mom died, we’ve been wanting to someday find someone to sing to and who I can talk to. Because Pepe Nacho is a lonely character.”
Pepe Nacho broke character for a second and spoke as Tello, yet referred to himself as "we." Tello’s voice dropped and he spoke with a tinge of sadness. But it didn’t take him long to get back into character.
Pepe Nacho sings "Guadalajara"
“But Pepe Nacho loves to cantinflear! We all have our small defects. Besides singing, I also love to cantinflear!”
Cantinflear is a word that comes from the classic Mexican TV show (and namesake character) from the 1950s, Cantinflas. It means to talk or communicate a message without having a defined point. It is used to confuse or convince someone that you are right.
“But Pepe Nacho always provides something pretty, his grain of sand to make the situation of Mexicans more calm, more fun. Pepe Nacho is a character that every morning he wakes up with batteries fully charged, he gives it his all, in this PEPE! In this Wednesday, November 16th, PEPE! of the year 2016, PEPE! And giving it all in this beautiful Tijuana, Baja California.”
Cars roll by and honk, and the character of Pepe Nacho returns full blast.
“Take a picture of me posing like Bruce Lee!” Pepe Nacho took up a fighting stance. “Now take a picture of me like Chapulin Colorado,” Pepe Nacho struck a pose like the Mexican character. “Take another picture…”
I put my camera away.