Baja California, June 2016
In the middle of the old road to Lake Chapala, Baja California lives a legend by the name of Coco. Coco is a 79 year old man disabled from both legs. Everyone who has ever ridden up this road, including truck drivers, Baja 1000 riders (a famous annual offroad race), motorbikers, cyclists and car drivers knows who he is.
“Come in Cabrones I’m here. Look you stay here tonight, over there is an old camper van you can sleep there. Just remove the stone from the door and you can come in, of course this place is for free”, he said to us just as he saw us coming in. “I will just ask you two things: fill up the bucket with water go to the pink shack and take a bloody shower, do not worry there is no one there so don´t be afraid to get in the nude, balls in the air. The other thing is that you need to sign my guest book. So as soon as you shower come here and sign it”, he continued to give me instructions.
The first thing that caught my eye was that enormous red panty stapled on the wall signed by a woman named Norma. At first I could not make up for this, until I stepped into his house. Coco had an incredible collection of dedicated underwear and shirts from men and women. The underwear was neatly set up on the ceiling of his house, I guess that was part of his tradition. The walls were decorated with memorabilia, mostly pictures, stickers, caps and signed posters from apparently famous Baja 1000 legends. Of all his little treasures, one seemed to stand above all, his trophy. The trophy was given to him by guests he had helped years ago by giving them a night to stay, company and beer. The trophy and his precious guest book seemed to be the most important for him. It was clear to me, this man was loved by many.
The second thing that impressed me was the tidiness in which he kept his desert mansion. Almost every piece of furniture, if not all, was made from reused objects. It was either used as decoration or as a piece that served a specific function, like an old computer screen he used as a photo frame. It was beautiful. He had sewed the old beer cans together and tied them on the fence of his yard as decoration, it read COCO. The can strap also scared coyotes from the sound they made from the wind. His dinner table was made from an old industrial cable reel. He had several artistic installations in his patio, such as an ode to the toilet. Several toilets that formed a square and in the middle stood a structure that read COCO, again.
His toilets where also very basic but infinitely much more cleaner that many other toilets I have ever been too, including inside houses. In between the toilets he had a really cool old TV art installation, he had carefully painted a landscape with fluorescent colors, inside the TV was a bulb so when night came the electric blue and yellow landscape shone in the darkness. If someone had been able to nail the shabby chic look with out spending thousand of dollars, it was him. He had managed to build a palace in the middle of the desert with building material most people would have considered trash.
Just about the same time we entered Coco´s Corner so did a couple of his friends. Kacey form Colorado came to visit him along with three of her friends she brought form San Luis Gonzaga. She had brought with her pasta, garlic bread, cookies and salad. She intended to treat Coco for dinner and because she was just awesome she also invited us as well. Coco invited us to sit with him in his own way, “Boy sit now with us, there is a lot of god damn food on the table. I am not going to finish it, tell your wife as well. Remember if you eat pasta you can’t eat fruit, it will make your god damn stomach fart all fucking day so don’t do that¨. Anything he tells you he does it with a bossy tone and in a fearless way, that is how he is and that is how we all like him.
After dinner Coco opened himself and started telling us his story, “I came here pulling my own wheel chair with only one leg, at the time I had a leg. I came here my favorite seed that now is the tree that you see outside, and ten pesos”. He continued his story with a lot more intensity, “I knew I wanted to be here, in this corner and with a lot of work I started building all of this. Most of what you see I did it with only one leg. Since I arrived here, money has never been a problem for me. I have hosted more than 185,000 people that have signed a total of 6 books.”
I know for a fact that many celebrities have signed his book. He told us about the tragedy of his 5th guest book, one of his most precious objects that got stolen. “A couple of fucked up gringos took It from me. They said they wanted sodas to drink and while I was serving them, one of them entered my room and stole it away from me. All I heard was one of them saying to the other ‘I got it..I got it let`s go’.”He told us that he did not understand what was going on, but it was already too late. “I should have known”, he said to me. “There was another couple months back that tried to steel it from me. That time I did notice and chased them up the highway on my quad. I took my shotgun with me, although I had no charges for it. I got them and asked nicely to give me back my book. Of course they didn’t. The second time I put the gun at the man’s chest and asked again. They gave me my book back and I told them that they should give me 100 USD for the night that they had spent at mine, that I don’t usually charge but that they deserved to pay. After the man gave me the money I took the shot, and of course there was no bullet. I laughed and said to them to go to hell.”
He thinks his book was stolen because there were many important people who signed it. I noticed how much this affected him, he even drew a couple of tears as he told us the story of his book. I really hope one day he gets it back.
Coco is full of surprises, he grew up in a relatively wealthy family form Ensenada. He said to me, “That fucking life was not for me boy, I love adventure and other things”. He likes to cut important news form newspapers and likes to read about history. He showed me pictures of his uncle the great and famous Pancho Villa. His aunt was married to Pancho and he had a picture of the both of them signed by her aunt.
For many, Coco is more of a guardian angel, it is easy to know why. He told me that death had cheated him 11 times, because 11 times he had fallen in a coma. He is humble, friendly and highly sociable. He charges absolutely nothing to cyclists when they want to stay a night inside. The same rule goes for anyone really. On the window where he serves the people who want to buy a soda from him or cookies and stuff, he has a jar where you can donate money to a girl who is looking to fund her medicine studies. He helps everyone he can.
His reputation precedes him, everyone who has had the pleasure of meeting him has nothing but good words for the old man. He is a character in the desert, a road angel that is very worth taking the time to meet. So when you cycle through highway number 3 on your way South or North through the Baja, say Hi from us. He will probably not remember us but it is always good to let him know that there was a German and Mexican Couple who were externally grateful for his hospitality.