Read a new introduction by authors
Pino Cacucci and Gloria Corica
ZICATELA BEACH, OAXACA; 2004: The socially conscious
bartender known far and wide as "Tiberio" has left his home
of eighteen years, Puerto Escondido, on world-class surfer's Emerald
Coast, but not entirely by choice. Mexico's most popular fugitive was
turned in to the authorities, and is now in Italy serving an old sentence
courtesy of the war on (some) drugs.
is gone from the hemisphere he loved. He returned to the Mediterranean
land of his birth on May 11th to finish a 1994 sentence leftover from
charges of violating Italian drug laws. In 1995, '96 and '97, Tiberio
served sixteen months in European prisons on those charges. But the
Italian government now insists that he must serve an additional sentence
of… one year… plus three months… and fourteen days.
Tiberio's road story will probably someday be a major motion picture
(a widely published European author is already working on his biography):
His is the tale of a fugitive that was too entertaining, just too alive,
to hide timidly in the shadows. Tiberio's daily fight for the right
to enjoy life, his unrivaled sense of humor, his love of music, cooking,
soccer (¡Bologna F.C.!), and, most of all, of people,
is already an academy award-winning Hollywood blockbuster of daily life
in a theater named earth.
With his trademark spirit of abbondanza, of generosity, Tiberio,
today, announces his future plans, shares his philosophies, and via
this exclusive interview with Salón Chingón, reveals his
famous recipe for mojitos - the author Ernest Hemingway's favorite
beverage - gratis, for one and all.
And you're probably going to need a drink now, kind reader, if you
believe in justice: Tiberio's Trail is also, sadly, a tale of betrayal,
of the carelessness of some people in "counter-cultural" circles,
and of the malice displayed by the villains of every hero's journey,
by those lowest of life-forms - the snitches - who for selfish motives
fingered my friend and yours and set in motion his theft from Zicatela
Beach and all who loved him there.
The snitches, and the careless ones who do not abide by the human
code of shunning informants, have thus caused great harm not only to
Tiberio, but also to his thousands of friends and fans, and to the tourism-dependent
economy of Zicatela Beach and Puerto Escondido, which has basked in
his supernova light for most of the past eighteen years.
On the road in Latin America, in the great tourist centers, you will
meet many travelers and expatriates who wear "rebellion" like
the icons - Che Guevara! Manu Chau! Maria Sabina! Marijuana! - displayed
on their tee-shirts, but who are essentially "takers," those
who, like the colonialists of yesterday and today, seek to profit and
to squeeze every unfair advantage from the wide gap between rich and
poor. Tiberio was and is the antithesis of that kind of faux-rebel parasite.
This Italian-born Renaissance man and raconteur always gave more than
he took. Kids, for example, universally loved him. They shouted the
name "Tiberio" from sidewalks and bicycles with glee. He'd
tell them jokes that only they understood, and they'd giggle uncontrollably.
The locals, their parents, respected and appreciated Tiberio. He knew
their names, addressed them as peers, made everyone laugh with him at
the ironies and unfairness of life under capitalism. Tiberio pitched
in for the good of the community, not as defined by do-gooders, missionaries,
and "enlightened" New Age fakers, but, rather, as the natives
defined that good.
And the tourists… upon whose spending or lack thereof much of
Puerto Escondido eats or goes hungry another day… flocked from
around the world to his bar, again and again, more than for the mojitos,
but to be in his presence. It is safe to say that Tiberio has thousands
of fans (sign the "Save Tiberio" petition below this article
to make it clear to those who tried to destroy him that we stand with
him, now and always, and together now we roll out the finest red and
black carpet ever woven to help him serve his time and then bring him
I was there, on September 1, 1999, when Casa Babylon, where Tiberio
held court, was born as a bar. The small stone building on the corner
of the Zicatela beachfront lawn of the Hotel Arcoiris was a used book-trading
shop and a bazaar to sell tee shirts and other tourist trinkets. It
was the end of the summer "high season," a time when most
of the European visitors and surfers headed back home (Zicatela is widely
considered one of the top three or four surfing beaches on earth; and
for the past five years it was also the most fun, largely thanks to
Tiberio). That was the September night when the five-peso beer was introduced
for sale - at zero profit - and the quiet, bored, little bookstore became
the hottest anarcho-artist bar on the beach.
But all is lost, now. Someone (or some ones) alerted the authorities
that although Tiberio was married to a Mexican he did not count with
the papers to allow him to remain legally within national territory.
He has just lost his bar and now he has lost his freedom. He has gone
back to a country where he was born, Italy, but that is no longer his.
Tiberio has been ripped from the land that loves him: Mexico…
and vice versa.
Even the Mexican authorities that had to enforce the law were, it
is commonly said in town, not happy to have been put in the position
where they had to act: They were very fair and just with him, Tiberio
notes, allowing him the time to negotiate his surrender to Italian authorities
(who seemed overly eager to catch this smallest of fish and ruin his
life again). But we will not dwell on snitches and interests today:
right now we have one greater, more urgent, priority - to save Tiberio.
We must first make it possible for Tiberio to serve his remaining time
not in prison, but, rather, doing social work, in Italy, as a form of
That is possible, kind reader, with your help: Tiberio has received
a job from a social service agency in Bologna to do just that, but he
must be able to show to the Italian authorities that he maintains a
stable apartment or home, and that costs a lot more rent money than
it would in Mexico. Additionally, he must pay a fine of 13,000 euros
(almost $17,000 U.S. dollars) to the Italian State. To have any chance
of returning to Mexico, to Puerto Escondido, to Playa Zicatela, and
to the municipality of Santa María Colotepec (¡Que
nos bendigas Tú!) - his true home - he must be able to pay
We are his friends - yes, I'm speaking to you - and we are going to
do that right now. We are going to pay that fine for him. We are going
to contact all his friends around the world: past, present, and future,
and meet this goal. I am going to contribute. And you are going to contribute.
The amount you give is less important than the solidarity you show by
giving something, anything, to the best of your abilities. We will show
Tiberio, at this stressful moment for him (and for many of us), who
his true friends are, and that his true friends are many.
You can make a donation today, online, of any amount large or small,
in euros, or in dollars, in Canadian dollars, in Sterling Pounds, or
in Yen, via credit card, to save Tiberio, by using this link:
All money donated will go directly to Tiberio, who will have exclusive
control over its use: No committee, no bureaucracy, no percentages collected
(except the three percent charged by PayPal, the company that will put
the money directly into Tiberio's Italian bank account), no scams, no
quid pro quo, nada de eso… Just pure gift money for Tiberio,
to pay off his debt to society and, well, if we collect more than he
needs to do that, he can spend it on anything he wants.
We are going to do this, first, because we stand by our friends. Second,
because we all probably skipped out of his bar on occasion without leaving
enough of a tip, or after receiving a free drink, or maybe even without
paying (he never called the cops!) Third, we launch this global act
of solidarity to send a message far and wide: that an attack against
one of our friends is an attack against all of us. Those who, maliciously,
sought to destroy Tiberio will now find that, because he has the one
thing they don't have - true friends - they only ended up making him
stronger. And that will be the sweetest, most positive, form of justice.
In addition to helping Tiberio financially at his hour of need, and
to signing the petition below that will be read and signed first by
dozens, later by hundreds, and later, well, let's see what kind of show
of strength we can, together, muster, this web page seeks to accomplish
one other goal: To ensure that when Tiberio does serve his time, and
pay off his fine, that he returns, in mid-to-late 2005, triumphantly
to Puerto Escondido, with the largest email list of friends and fans
possible, so that we can alert you to his return, to the location of
the bar where he will be holding court, and to his welcome home party.
"I want to come back," Tiberio told me in a lengthy five-day
interview prior to his departure. "And I want to open a new, more
beautiful, bar that will be even more fun."
By signing up on this free email list, you ensure that you, too, will
receive an invitation to the grand opening of Tiberio's new bar upon
Sign up for the Save Tiberio email list by typing your email address
in the box below and by clicking "Save Tiberio."
I often think of Tiberio as the brother that I never had. Any kindness
that you show to him will be a kindness received and appreciated by
me and by everyone else who loves him.
My colleagues in journalism and I have another special reason to save
Tiberio: He is the chief bartender of the Narco News School of Authentic
Journalism. And there are more than 70 journalists from around the world
who assembled this July in Bolivia - but without Tiberio this
time - who missed his towering presence more than we could
His attackers were really smart, weren't they? ("Hey, let's
get 100 of the top investigative reporters on earth really mad at us."
"Yeah, that sounds like a great idea!") It's a law of
nature: informants and traitors almost always fall of the weight of
their own stupidity.
Narco News is
the online newspaper reporting on the drug war and democracy from Latin
America, with an editorial position in favor of the legalization of
drugs. We are journalists that don't believe the kinds of laws now being
used against millions of people like Tiberio should exist at all. The
cause of saving Tiberio is the cause of all who are persecuted by unjust
Last year we Narconusistas started to train beginning journalists
and journalism students to do this important work. We did it because
young people all over América asked us to do it, and nobody else
was training them to resist the corruptions of the Commercial Media.
This website, salonchingon.com,
has sponsored and donated the bandwidth and labor to savetiberio.com.
Salón Chingón is the website of the students and professors
(and bartenders) of the Narco News J-School. We have special reasons
for wanting our favorite school bartender, entertainer, guidance counselor,
and extraordinary social lubricant back.
As Authentic Journalist Ashley Kennedy of New Orleans, a regular contributor
to High Times magazine, one of last year's Narco News scholars,
author of The
Superior Bush, returning this year as a professor, wrote in her
evaluation form when asked if she had any complaints about the ten-day
J-School held in February 2003 on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula:
"Yes, I have a big complaint: How come
I couldn't take Tiberio home in my suitcase?"
Or as globally renowned documentary film producer Stephen Marshall
of Guerrilla News wrote
on his weblog at that Authentic Media's website:
Arriving at the small oceanside hotel on the beautiful Mexican
island of Mujeres the night before my part of the GNN/NarcoNews video
workshop was to begin, I received one of those uncanny telegraphs
from the unseen world about what was ahead of me. A young traveler
with a backpack was attempting to ask the desk clerk about the status
of one of their guests. When I offered to help, explaining that I
was part of the NarcoNews conference, she began to excitedly relate
that she was here to meet her friend who was the bartender for the
conference. Relatively confident that there was no official designation
of 'bartender' for what was slated as a gathering of international
journalists to study the aspects of 'authentic journalism', I told
her that she probably had the wrong hotel.
And the wrong conference.
"Isn't this the one being run by Giordano?" she persisted,
referring to NarcoNews founder and visionary behind the event, Alberto
"It is," I replied.
"Well then, this is definitely the right place."
That was only the initial stage of my baptism into the chaotically
Bohemian and uniquely 21st century Romantic realm of NarcoNews…
Marshall, among others, often speaks of the power of art and creating
a "revolutionary aesthetic," something that both Guerrilla
News and Narco News, among others, do with some success. But, truth
be told, the source artists for the revolutionary aesthetic are those
rare people like Tiberio (and, in our case, specifically that guy, our
Tiberio, and yours); those individuals who awaken each morning, as if
on stage, and approach daily life with the same passion that a Performance
Artist puts into a two-hour show on a good night. A lot of us who get
attention in this world for "creating a scene," for works
of writing, or art, or theater, or media, are mere reporters and translators:
We get all our best concepts and ideas from those "source artists,"
like Tiberio, who made us laugh and smile during hard times and bitter
battles, who brought us the moments of sublime joy in daily life that
made creativity, and a glimpse of how the world could be, possible.
There is a long list of artists and creators - maybe you've heard of
some of them - who also call Tiberio friend. I'll tell you about some
of them in a moment.
You've heard, now, brief impressions from great journalists like Ashley
Kennedy and Stephen Marshall, glimpses of their testimonials of the
wild world of Tiberio. You'll hear mine in a moment. But we also want
to read yours, via the online petition below.
Photographers and artists: We also invite you to submit photos and
portraits of Tiberio to our online Save Tiberio photo gallery. Scan
them and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(And we invite readers to print them out as posters and stickers with
the banner: "Save Tiberio! www.SaveTiberio.com.")
Likewise, musicians and poets: if you've got the audio file of a work
inspired by him that is chingón enough to fly with Tiberio
on the World Wide Web, Salón Chingón has the bandwidth.
We sat down at the Comedor Vicky, a favorite lunch spot of the local
taxi drivers, on the hill overlooking Zicatela Beach, dining on fried
whole fish - huachinango al mojo de ajo - sharing some cold
cervezas, and began the interview.
SalónChingón: "So, my old friend. What
is your name?"
SalónChingón: "I never asked
you questions about your past before. Now I know that my instincts served
me well. Thanks for not turning me into an accomplice… Anyway,
you'll always be Tiberio to me. So, Tiberio, when did you first come
to Puerto Escondido?"
Tiberio: "I came as a tourist in 1986. Puerto almost didn't
exist. They had just finished building the Adoquín (the downtown
tourist walk). Here on Zicatela, there was only the Hotel Santa Fe,
nothing else. In 1988, I opened an Italian restaurant downtown, El
Bafo d'Oro (The Golden Mustache). In 1990, I moved the restaurant
to Playa Marinero, to the Flor de María Hotel. In 1992,
I opened a Laundromat and video game parlor from where I also rented
mopeds. But all this time I was coming back and forth from Italy, still
a tourist, really."
SalónChingón: "When did your legal problems
Tiberio: "I went to Italy in 1994, and from there I went
to Holland. In November of 1995, the Dutch police arrested me on a warrant
from Italy. Some snitch (soplón) had named me in a drug
deal. I was never found with any drugs on me. But I spent eight months
in Dutch prison and another eight months in Italian prison. Then I got
out, but still couldn't leave Italy, with legal proceedings still pending.
My wife didn't like being in Italy and so I decided to escape. I took
a boat from France to the Mexican port of Veracruz, and came back to
"But already, because of the testimony of a snitch, I had lost
my businesses in Puerto and my freedom. When I came back I had to start
all over again. I started doing silkscreen printing, making tee shirts,
and needed a place to sell them. So we rented that stone building that
became Casa Babylon.
"On September 1st, 1999, we started serving drinks, and that's
how Casa Babylon was born. For almost five years, I worked every night,
happy in life, with the only goal that the client would leave the bar
with a smile from ear to ear… Now, all over again, because of
the testimony of a snitch that wants to be anonymous, I have lost my
bar and my freedom all over again…"
SalónChingón: "You did work
long nights. I remember closing the bar with you at 4 a.m., at 4:30
a.m. some nights, the place still filled with people… And yet
there I would find you, again, at 7 o'clock in the morning, three hours
later, when I'd go out to get my morning coffee, and you'd be there
supervising the construction crew that built the dome and more than
doubled the size of that little stone building into a real bar and a
real work of art. How long did that construction take?"
Tiberio: "Seven months. But it wasn't only during the
construction that I'd get up early every morning. I've always done that.
I go to the market early to buy fresh mint and key limes for the mojitos.
You have to get there early to get the good stuff…"
SalónChingón: "I have a big favor to
ask you of you, Tiberio… because you were the reason to go to
that bar. It's not the same without you there. And I know that many
others feel the same way. That without Tiberio, there is no Casa Babylon…
that a stone building that was so full of life, without its star attraction,
is just a pile of rocks… So while you are in Italy for the next
fifteen months or so, serving your time, I wonder if you would be willing
to share your mojito and capairiña recipes with the people, so
that all over the world we can make them ourselves and drink a toast
out loud to you…"
Tiberio: "First, you need key limes, not just any lime
or lemon: they must be key limes. And you need hierba buena, fresh mint…
You need a medium sized glass, ice, agua mineral (carbonated
water), and a wooden, rounded, stick to mash with… In the glass
1 tablespoon of sugar
Juice of 1 key lime
4 stalks of mint
"Mash it with love."
Fill the glass with crushed ice.
Then fill 3/4 of the glass with rum, and…
1/4 with soda water
1 medium sized glass
Cut two key limes in 16 parts
Add 2 tablespoons of sugar
"Mash forcefully (and with love)"
Add crushed ice
Add rum to make a capairiña
Add vodka to make a capairoska
("Shaken, not stirred.")
1 shot of espresso
1 medium sized glass filled with ice cubes
1 tablespoon of sugar
During the breakout 2001 Mexican movie blockbuster, Y Tu Mamá
También, much of it filmed in Puerto Escondido and environs,
there is a scene filmed in a palapa, a straw-thatched bar, in nearby
Roca Blanca (called "Boca de Cielo" in the movie) in which
the three traveling companions, the Spaniard, Luisa (Maribel Verdú) and two young men from Mexico City, Tenoch (Diego Luna) and
Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal), are getting drunk on tequila. The two young
guys are laughing as they insult each other's mothers and supposed girlfriends.
"To your girlfriends, who are fucking ten Italians at a time!
…to Luigi! …to Francesco! …I toast to Tiberio!"
And they raise another shot of tequila high above, laughing. ¡¡¡Tiberio!!!
That is, in fact, the title scene of the movie: The next toast calls
out, "and to your mama, too!"
The screenplay dialogue, by director Alfonso Cuarán and his
brother Carlos, originally called for the actor to say, "I toast
to Antonio." The story of how the actors and the director decided
to change the script - as a silver screen tribute to our very own Tiberio
- offers a glimpse into both his popular charisma and also the positive
effect he has on talented people that, sadly, sometimes makes other
lesser lights envious to the point of distraction, even to the point
of resenting Tiberio… perhaps even to the point of turning him
in to the authorities?
SalónChingón: "Everybody says
you're the Tiberio in that scene from the movie. How did that happen?"
Tiberio: "They were here, filming, for one-and-a-half
months and they came back again and again to the bar. And because I
don't watch TV I didn't know they were famous actors. But they were
clients of the bar, and they were just fun people to play backgammon
with. And they left every night with smiles, ear to year, happy to work
the next day…"
SalónChingón: "You've done that for
a lot of artists and writers, myself included… Picasso understood
that pleasure principle… That an artist who laughs and lives life
in pursuit and receipt of great pleasures is a more inspired artist…
Maybe some people don't understand why artists flock around you…
You're a ringleader, the guy who reminds the creative people of what
life can be, of how it's supposed to be fun, and enjoyed…
"I remember the night, during the first month of Casa Babylon,
that the New Zealand painter Justine Ward walked in, and she kept coming
back. First she designed and painted your sign… Then your menus…
Then, when you built the addition, and the great dome atop, she laid
back on that scaffolding like Michelangelo with tiny brushes in ornate
blue and golden hues and symbols that glisten in the light and have
hypnotized many a visitor. People walking by on the street stop to show
their kids that dome, as if it were a museum, or the Sistine Chapel
itself… And beyond the fact that you constructed the canvass,
the concrete dome, there is a lot of Tiberio reflecting off of it…
Anyway, that's why I was thrilled when you agreed to be the chief
bartender for the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism in February
2003. I knew you could infuse my students with that same creative force…
But you were taking a risk by going to Mérida, as you knew in
Tiberio: "First, you have to take risks. I had not left
Puerto Escondido for three years. And, yes, I had to pass through forty
immigration and police roadblocks to get to Mérida. But I'm glad
I did. I thought I'd just be, you know, pouring mojitos at some conference.
I never imagined the quality of people that would be there…"
SalónChingón: "On the last
day of the J-School, up on the roof high above Isla Mujeres and the
blue Caribbean, you spoke to the students and told of when you were
eighteen, 25 years prior, how you went to gatherings like this where
people plotted to shake the world, and how…"
Tiberio: "…and how inspired I was to be in a new
century and see that there were still gatherings like those I remember.
You don't see those every day, now, you know?"
SalónChingón: "When you were
eighteen, the Autonomy
movement had begun in Northern Italy… Workers taking over
Negri coming into the spotlight… Is that what you were talking
Tiberio: "Well, your students are taking over the factory
of journalism, aren't they? Maybe we should have done that back then!"
SalónChingón: "Heh. You would
have surely gone to jail then!"
Tiberio: "I did go to jail then! It was for a month, when
I was eighteen, all because of my involvement in that movement. There
are some fights that we can't, that we shouldn't, run from."
SalónChingón: "A lot of people
in your position, fugitives from unjust 'justice' systems, would not
take risks like that. I remember, a month after Casa Babylon's inauguration,
we were sitting there in the middle of a hot, hot, day when the earthquake
struck. It was 7.4 on the Richter scale and Puerto Escondido was the
epicenter. We went flying out the windows, the doors, and onto the beach,
as the bookshelves and liquor bottles came crashing down onto the stone
floor. It was kind of exciting, really…
"But that was on the beach. Up in the hills, people had lost
their homes, mudslides happened, people died, entire communities were
cut off from contact with the outside world, and you were one of the
ringleaders of our little group raising money from the tourists to bring
aid and materials to those folks who really had suffered from the earthquake.
"And I remember one thing in particular: To make sure that
the money we raised didn't get pocketed by some middleman, you personally
went out there and used it to buy aluminum sheet for roofs and other
construction materials, and you personally drove it to the airport where
it was being packed on trucks or airlifted into the Sierra. The army
was there. The police were there. And you were a fugitive. But you went
face to face with the governmental authorities to get that aid to the
people. I had only known you for a short time but I had already heard
the rumors that you were underground. And that's when I knew you were
"And that's when I saw how much you loved Mexico and the
people of the Emerald Coast and the mountains behind it. Do you feel
that Mexico is your home, even after you have to leave the country to
serve out your sentence?"
Tiberio: "Yes, and I will come back. The local authorities
have been very supportive. Here, I always behaved. They never bothered
me. I really want to thank the entire people of Puerto Escondido for
accepting me as their clandestine son, and some of whom have openly
cried over my going away."
SalónChingón: "There were a
lot of tears at your going away party on April 27th. Some of them were
mine. But back to Puerto Escondido: Is there anybody else, here, locally,
you'd like to thank as particularly supportive."
Tiberio: "Yes. Georgina Mungaray Cruz, of the Los Delfines
Hotel, I call her, "La Madrina Espectacular," and José
Luis Mendiola, a partner in the Arcoiris Hotel and in Casa Babylon,
I'd like to thank them. And I'd also like to thank the National Institute
of Immigration authorities here in Puerto Escondido, who handled my
case very professionally and fairly. They could have handled this in
a way that barred me from ever returning. But they were pros. Even though
I have to go away for a while, I know I was treated fairly here. And
of course I'd also like to thank Angela, the hammock seller from Juchitán,
who has been such a good friend for so many years."
SalónChingón: "Well, Angela is the biggest
tourist attraction left on this beach. In your absence, she's all we've
got in terms of rock stars of daily life. So, my friend, Tiberio, I
mean, um… Tinarelli… tell us, now: What is your theory of
Tiberio: "Puta! That is a question! I guess it's that
'god helps those who help themselves.' When you have a wish, the entire
universe collaborates to make your wish come true. My wish is that someday
we'll have another bar in Puerto Escondido."
And our job, kind readers, is to create that entire universe that
makes Tiberio's wish come true. After all, it's our wish, too: Thus,
we're already part of that vast universe that is conspiring to make
it happen! ¡Ciao Tiberio! ¡Viva Tiberio! Save Tiberio!
Sign up for the free Save Tiberio email list:
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