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THE FIESTA IN THE TOWN OF GHOSTS
Gary Smith
October 05, 1987
A RITUAL FISTFIGHT HIGH IN THE BOLIVIAN ANDES REVEALS A PROFOUND BUT SIMPLE TRUTH ABOUT MEN AND BOXING
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October 05, 1987

The Fiesta In The Town Of Ghosts

A RITUAL FISTFIGHT HIGH IN THE BOLIVIAN ANDES REVEALS A PROFOUND BUT SIMPLE TRUTH ABOUT MEN AND BOXING

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Stomach coiled, mouth dry, hands twitching. Five minutes until the first Leonard-Duran fight. Closed-circuit projector busted, doors locked, 5,000 black men clenched outside, and me. West Philadelphia. Unlit ghetto. Rumors flying.

"Gonna fix it any minute, gonna open up the doors...."

"Honky rip-off. Ain't never gonna see no fight here...."

Fists pounding the glass. Stomach coiled, mouth dry. Go home now, get away. Three minutes left. But the fight....

Shouts all around me. A surge toward the door: an elbow in my back; a knee in my thigh; an obscenity in my ear. Go home. Two minutes. But the fight....

A bottle flies and shatters. Go home. The thick glass in the door shudders from the pounding. Go home. Shoved forward, knocked backward. But the fight....

One minute. A siren. A riot, this is going to be a riot. What are you doing here? Go home. But the fight....

Cannon shots across the Andes. The truck's exhaust system began to backfire, echoing off the mountainside. A baby began to wail. The sun's eye followed us, unblinking. More turns, turn-and-stop-and-back-up-and-turn-again-tight turns. The truck swayed and groaned, jolting over ruts, sending loose rocks over the precipice. Engine backfiring, stalling, restarting, truck pitching, baby wailing, tires spinning for grip at the edge. My God.

"I knew well a man who died on a truck here," said a young man. He smiled. A moan and then another. Children vomited, falling over each other to make it to the side, failing, one boy throwing up on another's head. My eyes darted. If only I could move. The truck lurched. I crashed against an Indian woman, bouncing her from sleep.

I wondered if I could figure out a way to eject if this truck began to tumble. Carefully I started to step over bodies, through tangles of arms and legs and sacks. My knee sank into someone's back. A pair of eyes glared up at me. My weight came down upon a hand. The man attached to it never blinked. Three more steps, two more apologies, I made it to the side. A loose plank. I wedged my sneaker into it and hoisted myself up near the top of the siding. I looked over the edge, straight down and down and down into a dry river gully.

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