Stories about Old Tampico
Don Pepe: The Charming Smuggler

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

Downtown Tampico
When you walk the streets among the old buildings of downtown Tampico, you can still see where these same people must have walked, Tampico seems to come alive!

And, you know, it doesnīt seem so long ago.

The Docks at Tampico
Don Pepe, the Charming Smuggler
How splendid and "rumboso"! Don Pepe was the same fine man with both the rich or with the poor and became loved and trusted by everyone in Tampico in those days.

He came here from his beloved Spain. He never stopped loving the country of his birth, but its memory was kept in a distant corner of his mind because he loved this hospitable and generous land with all his heart.

When he disembarked from a ship from Spain at the customs station on the docks in Tampico, he was pointed in the direction of the store of owned by a "paisano" from his hometown in Spain.
The Romero Rubio Bridge
Work in the Store
The store of his fellow countryman wasnīt far from the Romero Rubio Bridge that connected the docks to downtown Tampico.

In fact, it was almost in front of the Plaza de la Libertad, two short blocks away.

Pepe began to work at the store as a clerk, but soon the boss and the new employee became distant from each other.

Back then, it was common for the employees of the small grocery, clothing, and stores that sold needles and thread, to be given lodging, meals, and clean clothes.
The Plaza de la Libertad
Watery Soup and a Fish Hook
But, soon, Pepe was tired of the watery soup, hard beans, and cooked potatoes.

However, he had a sense of humor, and one day he went out and bought some fishing line, a bobber, and a hook.

When they brought the steaming large bowl of soup to the table, he dropped the hook into the soup.

Uuf!, you should have heard the comments!

La Plaza de la Libertad
Adios to Pepeīs New Job
"A gentlemenīs manners are seen at the dinner table as well as at the gaming table." And other things.

Pepe answered innocently, "I did it to see if I could fish out anything, maybe even a piece of meat."

At that point, adios to Pepeīs new job!

For Don Pepe it was fortunate that he lost his job because he would have wasted his enormous talent behind the counter.
La Calle de la Rivera
The Ladies of Tampico in Those Days
Don Pepe Had Talent
He quickly captured the hustle and bustle of the Tampico market with the eye of an eagle, and started with a couple of businesses that produced enormous profits.

He was like a wild animal about capturing centavos and had talent, a lot of talent.

Soon he became very wealthy and married one of the most beautiful women born under the skies of Tampico. His wedding was talked about for many years.

There had never been anything like his wedding, and there never will be anything like it again.
La Calle Ribera
Don Pepeīs Wedding
What made the wedding unique is that first of all, the couple: the bride was stunningly beautiful and Don Pepeīs personality was generous and outgoing;

And second, he invited the whole town of Tampico to his wedding!

And, everybody in Tampico attended!

It was a huge compacted crowd that applauded the couple, and it was useless for them all to get into the church because they simply couldnīt fit into the Cathedral.
The Bergen Building?
Don Pepeīs Wedding
The tables for the wedding dinner, covered with fresh white tablecloths, were placed in the Dry Meat Section of the central market which was catty corner from what is now the Bergan Building.

On the table was food in abundance, and it was for the whole town!

To see the food was a delicious delight to see and the appetite was whet.
La Plaza de la Libertad
There were cakes of meat, bowls of turkey in mole sauce, whole legs of ham, crabs, and stuffed fish, breaded shrimp with special escabeche sauce with onions, lime juice, and mild peppers.

All day long, until 12PM midnight, the tables were full of food, and were never left empty.

The barrels of wine, legally from Spain, were also available to the public. It goes without saying that as soon as one of the barrels was empty, another appeared in its place.

A Special Request of the Mayor of Tampico
Well ahead of time, Don Pepe had made a special request of the Mayor, that nobody should be arrested for drunkenness that day. He didnīt want anything to dampen the happiness of the people of Tampico on that day.

The Plaza de la Libertad in those Days (Rivera and Colon)

Don Pepeīs Strange Business
Among the many businesses that Don Pepe managed, perhaps the one that gave him the most profits was the sales of cattle and horses to the south: primarily Yucatan and Campeche, as far as I can tell...

Many wondered if the business was straight or crooked, but most people said it was crooked. But, who was so dark of heart who would say or even think something that offensive about Don Pepe, as good and generous as he was, who always had his purse open for the needy, a kind word for everyone, and a friend to all?

A Mystery in Tampico
However, one day something so daring, and beyond anyoneīs imagination happened. All the horses stationed at the army base disappeared. The whole battalion was left on foot! Even the generalīs handsome stallion was gone!

Who was to blame? Where did all the horses go? And right under the nose of everyone!

No one said anything. Nobody saw anything. Nobody said anything. It was a mystery the authorities never cleared up. It was almost a crime to even think about it.

But one thing is certain. All of Tampico enjoyed seeing the horses herded down the street straight to the customs dock where a ship was ready to leave for the high seas to only God knows where...

Commments from the Authorīs Son about Don Pepe
I was curious about Don this story and asked Don Hector who Don Pepe was

He replied that his motherīs stories are true, and Don Pepe was a real person, but in most cases she changed the names to protect their anonymity.

The people who lived in Tampico in those days knew the real names of the people mentioned in these stories, but by the time the book was published they had all passed on. The true identity of Don Pepe is still a mystery.

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