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Bike Gangs of Valdivia

September 22, 2009

Bike Gangs of Valdivia by Daniel Chavarria


They would ride their bikes through Valdivia, whistling and throwing sticks at the dogs. In their junkshop jewels they rode through the undammed streets. Their bikes customized with what they found on the beach or in car wrecks on curve A. License plates, gold chains, fuzzy dice, bloody rags, and fish bones. They’d all been riding bikes since they were kids. They had grown up together, all ten of them. Helping their fathers fish during the day and riding their bikes at night. They loved to ride, they rode through the rivers, through the jungles, over the hills, and on Sunday they roamed the streets, doing wheelies and howling like a pack of wolves when the moon was out.

It was winter and the sun was shining. It had rained for three days before Good Friday and only six of them went out for the day’s ride. They drank beer and cane liquor sitting on their bikes outside the cantina, listening to the salsa and chan chan blaring from the speakers. Talking shop, soccer, and about the girls they chased that week, about the skirts they’d looked under during church, and about the cars that zoomed by, blowing dust in their eyes. They got drunk and talked until after midnight and then with the devil spirit they rode to the next town down the road. Singing folksongs as they rode in the lightless night. They rode for miles in the dark, until they got to the small town beneath the mountain; their biggest rival in the Peninsular Intramurals. They had played them for years and only won a single match, when their goalie was drunk, and had been ridiculed for a long time.

The resentment hit them on a personal level, soccer was a man’s game in these towns, and winning games was a sign of masculinity and superiority. All they had were their bikes and cane liquor and with them they molotoved the houses, the churches and the ice-cream shops of the next town over; burning the town to the ground. They rode to the holy hill, the place where their ancestors once prayed before the Spaniards came, and watched the fire. They saw the townspeople gathered outside the flaming houses, women covering their children from the smoke, men screaming in pajamas, and dogs barking at the flames. And soon regretted what they did because they killed the mayor and it was Easter.  And their devil spirit smiled.

Outside Valdivia

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