Mexican Radio

by Chris Barsanti

11 January 2008


In the city of Nezahualcoyotl, 60 miles east of Mexico City, police supervisors had a great idea a few years back about introducing their rank and file officers (many of whom had been ill-served by the country’s wretched school system) to works of great literature. Problem was, it didn’t work. The men were bored and inattentive. Then one of the regional chiefs had an idea: he cracked open Don Quixote and translated it into an idiom the officers understood: police radio codes. Pretty soon the officers were asking for more books. In Manuel Roig-Franzia’s fascinating dispatch for the Washington Post, he talks about how the cops went to work on the first line of One Hundred Years of Solitude, which as you’ll recall, starts like this:

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Col. Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

Once translated into police code, this is how it read:

Many alfas later, in front of a 44 squad, Col. Aureliano Buendía had a 60 about that distant afternoon when his father 26 him to 62 ice.

Whatever works.

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