This is the first chapter on one of Christopher’s first prison friends, Tachuela. It appeared on the Expat Chronicles blog as part of the entire saga, which you can see at The Rise and Fall of Tachuela.
In an environment where nobody spoke English, Christopher picked up Spanish quickly. He decided to apply some of the political lessons he learned in Irish prison. Specifically, he wanted to make friends with feared inmates.
Christopher noticed the presence of Tachuela in the patio. He could tell by the vibe and body language of the other prisoners that Tachuela was feared. In fact, he was the most feared inmate in Patio 7. “Tachuela” means “tack” or “thumbtack” in English. He got this name because he was small in stature but a dangerous killer, quick and skilled with a knife. Christopher plotted to make an alliance.
Tachuela often hung out on the patio just on the other side of the barred wall outside Christopher’s cell. Christopher realized that Tachuela enjoyed listening to The Beatles, which Christopher played every morning in his cell. He had brought a medium-sized tape player with a few Beatles tapes for the hotel room while kicking heroin. He brought them in case the local radio only featured salsa and Latin music.
Christopher called Tachuela over one day and gave him the tape recorder and all the Beatles tapes. He had played the tapes out anyway, to the point he could not listen to them. But instead of selling them or holding on to the tape recorder, he just gave it all to Tachuela. He gave a brief explanation, just the word “regalo” (gift).
Christopher and Tachuela began greeting each other every day on the patio. Tachuela communicated that he cried after receiving the gift. Nobody had ever given him anything in his life. Christopher occasionally invited Tachuela to breakfasts and lunches at the caspete. When they began to be associated as friends, the caspetero at Christopher’s preferred restaurant warned him about his new friend. He told Christopher to be careful because Tachuela was dangerous. He was responsible for all the killings in their patio during the last few weeks.
That was why Christopher chose to buddy up with Tachuela in the first place. In fact, Christopher had witnessed Tachuela stab an inmate before they became friends. Tachuela stabbed Jacob The Jew in the pelvis, just above the genitalia. Jacob The Jew survived the attack. Once friends, Tachuela told Christopher the story. Jacob The Jew was a part of the small, affluent Jewish population in Bogotá. He had been working with a kidnapping gang, providing information on wealthy families’ children and assets. He helped them organize kidnappings and collect ransoms, unknown to the Jewish families themselves until he was caught.
Once Jacob The Jew was discovered and sent to prison, the Jewish families were furious. Some organized to take revenge. Tachuela got a contract from the outside to stab Jacob The Jew. Tachuela would have made 50,000 pesos ($300 in 2014) from that stabbing. That was the market rate. However, Jacob the Jew survived. After recovering, he was being transferred by bus to a courthouse. Another prisoner on the bus took a knife to his face, carving a scar the entire length of his cheek. Jacob The Jew was finally killed after yet one more attack.
As he had established himself with the Dunnes in Mountjoy, Christopher became known as a close friend of the most feared killer in Patio 7.