Prologue
Don Silvio and I sit across from each other at a small wooden table in my
office above the call center. The table, scarred with rings of Nescafé, has
one short leg and tilts when either of us leans in. Nacho sits in a chair to my
left; Don Silvio’s associate, a dark unsmiling man whose name I didn’t catch,
sits to his right. Traffic noise and the cries of vendors slip through the open
window overlooking Avenida Honduras. Diesel exhaust mixes with the smell
of toasting wheat and wafts up from the sidewalk below.
The man across the table, Silvio Mamani, is the president of the trade fed-
eration representing the street vendors of Cochabamba. He wears a beaten
brown fedora bearing the stains of many years selling juice on the streets of
the city. Beneath it his hair is receding and wiry, not straight, full, and shiny
black like that of most Bolivians. It is a contrast to his face, which is a carica-
ture of the classically Andean: rich brown skin, sharply angled brow, hooked
nose, protruding chin. Don Silvio speaks through clenched teeth, his lower
jaw deviating from the line of his face, as though it had once been broken
and never properly reset. He wears a blue denim shirt, black pleated pants,
and battered black half- boots with a zipper down the side. Don Silvio walks
with a limp, dragging his bad leg behind him as he pushes his little juice cart
through the market. He looks like a man with deep damage, like a case of
fruit tossed from the back of a delivery truck. But there must be iron in Don
Silvio as well for him to have attained the position he now holds.
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