Chapter 33: Juan Pedro, Mother of Jackal

“Coyote” is a colloquial Mexican-Spanish term referring to people who smuggle undocumented migrants across the U.S.-Mexican border. Human smuggling is risky, and many coyotes are well-paid, careful professionals. They have contacts along the southern Mexican border, and their pay includes payoffs to authorities and to drug cartels. Coyotes with good reputations often get repeat business from relatives of “clients” they have smuggled across. While some coyotes refer to themselves by their first names, others use “business” monikers such as “El Chacal,” to call attention to their ruthlessness and their close relationships with the cartels. They are especially dangerous—con artists and extortionists, as likely as not to kill people or abandon them, leaving them stranded in the desert or in the Río Bravo—and their desperate “clients” do not mess with them. 

Everyone knows that a coyote whose name is “El Chacal” is not someone anyone—especially a middle-class Mexican woman with lots of money who could easily have boarded a plane to Canada (but that’s another story)—would choose to deal with. Except for Cummins. I can only imagine her thought processes as she named a good, professional coyote “El Chacal” and then doubled back to justify what she had done, making the whole thing even more of a culturally unbelievable (not to mention ridiculous) mess. That’s “mierda” in Spanish.  

For Mexican villagers to refer to a 12-year-old boy as “mother of” anything is beyond embarrassing. It’s insulting.

Cummins writes: “Most people who meet El Chacal at this state of his life presume he got his moniker because of his work as a coyote, but in fact his family has called him that since he was twelve years old. When he was a boy in Tamaulipas, Juan Pedro, as he was known back then, found a pup one day on the side of the road. The pup’s mother had been struck by a car and killed. The other littermates had scattered or been picked off by the time Juan Pedro arrived and found the lone pup sitting bereft beside the cold body of its mother. Juan Pedro took the pup home, and as it grew, despite the meticulous care and affection Juan Pedro gave it, it became a wild, rangy-looking thing. People in the village took to calling the pup “The Jackal,’ which was fine by Juan Pedro, who liked the wildness of it. But then they began calling Juan Pedro “Mother of Jackal,’ which he didn’t like quite so much. He endured that name for some time and was glad when eventually folks stopped mentioning the dog entirely and shortened his nickname to “El Chacal.‘”

“Despite the name, El Chacal had no intention of becoming a coyote. Few people do.” (pp. 344-346).

  1. “El Chacal” is not a typical name for “coyote.” It’s a pejorative name.

  2. People in a Mexican village would not call a rescued jackal-like pup “The Jackal.” They would not call it anything.

  3. For Mexican villagers to refer to a 12-year-old boy as “mother of” anything, much less “mother of jackal” because he was good at raising a jackal-like pup is beyond embarrassing. It’s insulting.

  4. Then, abruptly switching to Spanish, the villagers “shorten” the boy’s name to “El Chacal,” making it even worse. A Mexican family would never nickname a boy—or anyone else—“jackal.” It just wouldn’t be done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *