“I toast to Tiberio,” exclaim the protagonists in the film Y tu mamá también, but the screenplay had the name “Antonio” as a common Italian name. They were filming in Puerto Escondido and the actors - among them Gael García Bernal, who later played the role of a young Che Guevara in Motorcycle Diaries - went every night to the most comfy bar in Puerto, Casa Bablyon, created, constructed, and led by Tiberio Tinarelli. That toast in the film was the way in which they paid homage to this friend.
Tiberio has now returned to Italy, against his will, and is the protagonist of an ugly film, a legal case that at minimum we can call Kafkaesque and surreal, but it is disgracefully the cruel reality for Tiberio, and this is a call to publicize his situation asking for solidarity and aid so that he can resolve this problem as soon as possible.
In 1995, Tiberio was arrested and accused of “drug trafficking,” even though not even a microgram of any illegal drug was found on him. He was the victim of the finger-pointing by a young Italian that Tiberio had known, who to lessen his own sentence accused him as an accomplice. With a total lack of evidence the word of the youth carried more weight and Tiberio was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison: He spent eight months in a Dutch prison after a trip from Mexico to Europe, and later served another month in Italy where he was released on probation thanks to a work release program in the city of Bologna. But the salary was barely a million lira per month (less than 500 euros, or $650 dollars a month), and surviving in Bologna at such low pay is everyday more difficult.
During this time his Mexican wife came to meet him and stayed with him in Bologna hoping that he would finally obtain the liberty to return to Puerto Escondido. When Tiberio found a new job, doing home delivery of packages and purses, his economic situation improved. But a little while later came the second injustice: the police chief took away his chance to work the new job utilizing an old law that says “whomever delivers packages to houses cannot have a criminal record.”
With that, it not only became impossible to live in Bologna with a decently paying job… no, that’s not all! Tiberio discovered that due to an absurd “bureaucratic error” they still hadn’t begun counting down the months since his arrest under probation. Tiberio and his partner decided to return to Mexico where they had left one line of work (a laundromat and moped rental) given the impossibility of surviving in Italy.
In Puerto they opened Casa Babylon, that within a few years became one of the most popular and comfortable places in this small Pacific town, where one not only could have a drink but also borrow a book or simply play a game (it was the only bookstore and game salon in Puerto) and Tiberio became one of the most beloved personalities by the people to the town and the travelers who came to Casa Babylon, thanks to his incredible ability to make friends with simplicity and sympathy.
But Tiberio couldn’t ask for a work visa in order to be legal owner and director of Casa Babylon and the Mexican authorities (who never imposed dramatic punishments on him, it is worth noting) began visiting him frequently and with greater urgency asking him to “regularize” his migratory status. In the end, Tiberio decided to return to Italy to finish out his sentence.
For the duration of his sentence he didn’t have to go to jail, but instead is able to finish it in a work release program, which he began immediately. He currently resides and works in Bologna. At this point the perverse bureaucratic machine began to work at cross-purposes: Tiberio found out that during these months they had not begun to countdown even one day from his sentence. The despair led him to make a dramatic appeal that they put him back in jail to stop this surreal situation that he found himself in… But not even this could be done… They told him that he couldn’t return to jail even if he wanted to…
He has to be patient, let time pass, and work to survive without the days counting down toward the one year he needs in order to return to Puerto Escondido and his work: Tiberio is waiting patiently, working hard, and with his lawyers they hope to win, sooner or later…
But there is another problem in all this: Tiberio needs to find 13,000 euros (almost $17,000 dollars) to pay the fines and court costs imposed upon him, money that obviously Tiberio doesn’t have and with the his low paying jobs that are the only ones that can meet the conditions placed upon him by the court, he is unable to save.
This is thus also an economic appeal, an appeal to send a contribution to the account that we list here below, because although we are awaiting the legal countdown of days to his release to begin and Tiberio’s sentence of one year, three months, and fourteen days begins, until Tiberio can pay 13,000 euros to the Italian state, he won’t be able to return to Mexico, where he has lived for 18 years. To everyone who hears this call and knows Tiberio and Casa Babylon, we invite you to lend a hand.
And to those who have not known him, but who have the sensitivity and civic commitment to help him in this absurd legal case, you will sooner or later be able to go to Puerto Escondido to meet him, in a little more than a year, if all goes well.
Pino Cacucci is author of numerous nonfiction and fiction books published in Italian, French, German, Spanish and, in English, Tina Modotti: A Life (1999, St. Martins). The classic movie, Puerto Escondido, was based on one of his books. Gloria Corica and he collaborated with director Gabriele Salvatores in authoring the screenplay for the movie Nirvana (featured at Cannes in 1997), among many other projects. Both are regular visitors to Puerto Escondido and the Mexican Southeast.
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