Ponk Vonsydow 

Mexico City is one of the most impoverished cities in Latin America with millions of desperately poor people and a massive shanty town without much electricity and no running water or proper sanitation. For the poorest unemployed women, turning to prostitution is an often obvious choice to earn an income. However, outside venereal diseases the other equally practical consequence to being a whore is unwanted pregnancies. Thus pregnancy among Mexico City's prostitutes is commonplace resulting in hundreds of illegitimate babies being born each year. Infanticide among male babies is also commonplace, the murder of the women's male infants usually being done by the women's pimps. Meanwhile, the pimps agree to allow their whores to keep and raise female babies, because young girls can work as prostitutes when they are old enough. Yet handfuls of prostitutes too unsightly to have a pimp, who might kill her male baby, manage to keep their little boys for a period of a few years. These unfortunate women raise their baby until he is about five years old and is already poddy trained and can communicate well enough to fend for himself as a street urchin. Then the whore abandons the child somewhere in the middle of the city, most often after tying the child's leg to a street sign with tight knots in a piece of rope so he can't run after her when the woman runs away never to return.

The abandoned little boys are then found by the roaming street urchin gangs occupying their marked-out territories around Mexico City. The gangs are controlled by the older boys between ages eight to ten years old. There are no boys much older than that because at age eleven the drug cartels recruit them for various jobs. Thus leadership among the gangs rotates regularly as one leader leaves the gang only to be replaced by the next oldest and strongest boy. When it comes to the younger boys, even one recently abandoned at age four or five, the older boys know such little boys are more efficient beggars because passersby feel sorry for small children more often than they feel sorry for an adolescent boy.  Whatever money the younger boys earn while panhandling is collected by the older boys, so they can always afford their cigarettes, alcohol and heroin and so they may gamble frequently. Leftover money is used to feed the gang and to purchase various items they need on a regular basis. Usually, what the little boys have as their meager possessions are things they scavenged or stole.
An unattractive prostitute named Consuela who worked the dirty streets of the shanty town where she lived gave birth to her son, Lupe, five years ago. Lupe was now mature enough to fend for himself as a street urchin, so Consuela who wished to rid herself of the liability of having a child, took Lupe into the middle of Mexico City and she did as many other desperate whores with unwanted children opted to try when she tied Lupe's ankle to a street sign with a dozen tight knots. She knew Lupe wouldn't manage to get himself untied until she was long gone. Lupe thought what his mother was doing while tying a rope around his ankle was some kind of game so he laughed when she did so. Lupe thought she was playing hide-and-seek when she suddenly ran away. Lupe wanted to chase after his mother, but he was still tied to the street sign. He decided to try and untie the rope, but it took about ten minutes to do that. After he was free Lupe went looking for his mother, but after walking many city blocks he failed to find her of course and then he realized he was all alone and lost in a part of the city he'd never been to before! Lupe got scared and sat down on the sidewalk and he began to cry. Adult passersby ignored the crying boy and merely sidestepped around him as he asked strangers if they knew where his mother was. A few of the strangers gave Lupe some pesos. He put them in his pocket. By then it was already starting to get dark. Lupe continued to cry for his mama.
The street urchin gang, El Uniqos (The Unique Ones,) was on the move. The gang's ten year old leader, Roberto and his two nine year old lieutenants Carlos and Enrique were out and about collecting the younger boys because it was already dark when the bad people came out. Once all the boys were collected as a group they'd head back to their secret hideout inside the old abandoned and condemned, Don Poncho's Theater. It was during the collection process when Roberto and Carlos and a group of smaller boys came across poor little Lupe still crying while sitting on the sidewalk. Roberto took Carlos by the arm. 

"Look here Carlos! A new little one! We better get him!"

Roberto and Carlos walked up to Lupe. Roberto spoke.

"Hey there kid! You don't need to be scared anymore. We know your mama left you out here all by yourself! She's not coming back for you that's, for sure! You've already been crying all day I guess, but we don't like crybabies! If you want to come with us so we can take care of you, you can't be a big crybaby! Are you hungry?"

Lupe knew he was very hungry by then. He spoke shyly.

"You have something to eat, I can have?" 

Roberto replied.

"Yeah, we've got tacos and tortilla chips and a Coke for you, but if you want to eat that you'll have to come with us! You don't have anywhere else to go anyway, right? We'll give you a blanket and a place to sleep from now on. Then tomorrow we'll get you a candy bar for breakfast and we'll explain how things work. C'mon there's a bunch of boys close to your age you'll make friends with. You like having friends right?"

Lupe replied:

"Are you guys gonna be my friends now?" 

Roberto smiled:

"We'll all be your best friends. Now what's your name anyway?"

Lupe replied:

"I'm Lupe."

The boys took turns introducing, themselves.

"I'm Roberto."

"I'm Carlos."

Three younger boys stepped forward to shake Lupe's hand.

"I'm Rico."

"I'm Manuel"

"I'm Vincente"

Carlos saw Enrique coming with six more boys. Roberto spoke to them when they arrived.

"This new kid is Lupe. Lupe, this is Enrique, Hasta, Bean, Pepe, Luca, Juan, and Chucho. Okay, now that we all know each others names, we need to get back to the fort. C'mon lets go!"

Now the boys got in a single file line and Lupe and the rest followed Roberto down a number of blocks until they entered the alley that went behind the old Don Poncho's theater, where they took turns climbing on top of some milk crates stacked up high enough like steps to climb inside an open window. Lupe saw the room he climbed into was a bathroom with a toilet. Lupe followed Roberto elsewhere inside the building. Roberto lit the way inside the dark place with a lantern kept at the ready in the bathroom.

"Our camp is up on the old stage. Come with me and I'll give you one of our extra blankets. My back pack is full of tacos and we each get one. I've got a couple sacks of tortilla chips too and a couple of big bottles of Coke. You'll get a little cup full, but don't slam it because every kid only gets one little cup! We'll all have our dinners then we all go to bed early because we have to get up at dawn to go back to work and and because we can't be burning lamp oil all night long. Now since you're new you have to go last so be a good boy and get in the back of the line, Lupe. But don't worry, for tonight I'll give you my extra taco, then next time I'll make sure to get one just for you."

Roberto handed out the tacos and the kids got handfuls of chips and a small cup of Coca-Cola. Before bed Roberto took Lupe into the same bathroom he'd come into when getting inside the theater.

"We figured out you can get an old broken toilet to flush by pouring a bucket of water down the bowl. So we've got a toilet to use if we need to go. Everyone goes before going to bed then when they are done we dump the bucket of water in the bowl to flush it. If you need to go in the middle of the night you'll just have to find your way back here in the dark. Unless you still wet the bed! If you pee in your pants you'll have to wash them in the fountain the next morning so you won't start to smell bad. You're not a bed-wetter are you?"

Lupe frowned.

"I'm a big boy! I don't wet the bed no more!"

Roberto left Lupe to do his business in the bathroom. After the rest of the boys got their own turns in the bathroom and the toilet was flushed, Roberto gave Lupe a blanket and told him to make a bed on the floor of the stage with the other boys his age. Then there was another hour for playtime and Lupe got to meet and play with the boys about his age for a while. When the lantern was put out it was dark in there, but Lupe was already used to being stuck in the dark at night, because his mother's shack didn't have electricity and they didn't even have a lantern.     
On to Chapter 2>