Abel Rojas, my mother's biological father, died in a car accident in Tijuana on June 2. El Mexicano, a daily paper, reported the following Monday that Rojas had a heart attack behind the wheel and hit a couple of parked cars. The paper said the police, in an "act of negligence," hauled him to a station instead of a hospital. His death would have been news nonetheless. In his day Rojas was a beloved fighter and trainer in Tijuana, traveling to the great cities of the world on the boxing circuit. He was known as "El Tiburon," or The Shark. Later in his life, he became a writer of short stories, commentaries, and hosted a program on AM radio. El Mexicano described him as a "legend of Tijuana boxing," and "the patriarch" of the city's boxing scene. He also once operated a cantina in downtown Tijuana, named, of course, El Tiburon.
A week or so after he died I went with my brother and mother to Tijuana to visit with two of El Tiburon's sisters who travelled from Cananea, in the state of Sonora, to collect his ashes and return them to the city where he was born. Tiburon was a true Tijuana original, raised there since he was very young. But as his sisters described Cananea, it sounded like a wonderful place to rest for eternity. They said their hometown was high in the mountains, and that it snows. I found these pictures on a local Cananea website. It was first settled in 1760, and became a center of copper mining. El Tiburon's sisters told us immigrants from the south, on their way north, have been pouring into Cananea and rapidly changing its character.
Like death, family ties are never neat and tidy. My mother was raised by a loving stepfather. But on a few ocassions she took us to meet El Tiburon at a Tijuana diner, to hear about his adventures and memories. He went to Scotland and back for a match in less than 36 hours, he boasted. He told us Tijuana was once a lovely city, not as big and hectic and modern as it is now. El Tiburon had chocolate brown skin, and bushy white eyebrows. Everywhere he went people knew him.