For the suffering, the sad, the desperate and the damned, all roads lead to La Roma.
That’s the Mexico City neighborhood where president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, has set up his transition headquarters and where hundreds of pilgrims now arrive every day to seek an audience with the political veteran — and cures for whatever ails them.
“I brought my CV to see if there are any jobs going.”
“I was unfairly fired.”
“We need water.”
“Lend me 200,000 pesos and I’ll pay you back later.”
“My son was unfairly convicted.”
“My electricity bill is wrong.”
“Our house collapsed in the earthquake.”
Those are just some of the grievances and pleas of the faithful who have arrived in front of the house-cum-office on Chihuahua street since López Obrador’s landslide victory on July 1.
The day after the election, one of the first people to try his luck was Sonora resident José Acosta Rochín, who traveled to Mexico City to ask the president-elect for 400,000 pesos (US $21,500) so that he could pay for an air ambulance to bring his dying brother back to Mexico from Pennsylvania.
More recently, a 21-year-old car washer showed up with a bucket and rag in hand to ask if he could have AMLO’s white Volkswagen Jetta. “I helped in the campaign,” he explained.
Luz María Martínez, a furniture vendor in Morelos, sobbed as she recalled that she had to take out a 200,000-peso (US $10,740) loan to pay a ransom so that her kidnapped husband would be returned.
“. . . They let him go but now I can barely pay the interest . . . I repay 15,000 pesos every two months,” she said.
And so it goes on: person after person each with their own personal plea but a shared hope that AMLO — who is sometimes referred to as the tropical messiah — will intervene and make things right.
Earlier this week, petitioners even set up an altar outside the house at 216 Chihuahua street replete with candles and an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, providing a neat metaphor for the quasi-religious faith many have in Mexico’s next president.
But the reality is that most of the supplicants will never get a chance to meet personally with AMLO.
“If I receive you all, I won’t work,” the president-elect said as he arrived at the house this week.
But the lines of people still remain.
Representatives from AMLO’s transition team collect the handwritten and typed entreaties from those who have them, assuring them that each case will be looked at. But not all come quite so prepared.
“I need to speak to him personally, it’s all here in my head,” said Ernesto Martínez before he accepted his fate and wrote the next president a note.