by Rogelio Bahia, writer, explorer and proprietor at Villa Bahia in Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja California
The construct of “Justice” can be sometimes capricious, and subject to many differing interpretations. Justice under the law is no exception, and many times deriving it from the letter of the law as opposed to the spirit of the law can be a problem. I believe the following story illustrates the triumph of intelligent application of the law, as interpreted and applied by a local Baja policeman.
The story takes place in the sun-bathed, nature-blessed community of less than a thousand souls nestled between the mountains and the beaches of the beautiful Sea of Cortez, my home, Bahia de los Angeles. There are four officers who make up our police force here, and they do an exemplary job of seeing that things run smoothly in our little pueblo. Oh, to be sure, we have a carcel, but it is rarely filled with miscreants, and those admitted are usually guilty of not much more than getting drunk and into a fight after too much tequila. Mordida is unknown in Bahia. The officers assigned here are trusted and respected by the community, and take seriously their role ‘to protect and serve’. This story serves to illustrate the point. The names have been changed, but the story is true.
Octavio came home from town one day, and discovered that his puppy, a delightful male yellow Labrador mix was missing. He looked all over around his house, but there was no sign of the missing puppy. Concerned, as it was not like the dog to stray, he got in his truck and searched the neighborhood near his house with no success. Days went by, and still no sign of his pet. He had just about given up hope, when a friend told him ”I think I know what happened to your dog – Guadalupe has him at her house, I saw him with my own eyes this morning!”
Octavio went to see, and sure enough, there was his puppy, tied up in Guadalupe’s yard. “Guadalupe,” said Octavio, “I see you have found my puppy! Thank you!” “No, that is my puppy. He ran away a while back, and when I saw him over by your place, I brought him back where he belongs.” “But no, you are mistaken. I brought that dog myself from Ensenada several weeks ago.” “Maybe you brought a dog, but not this dog, I got him from my brother.”
Octavio saw that Guadalupe was not going to relinquish ownership of the dog, so he had no choice but to go to the police station, and report that she had stolen his dog. She was called on the radio and told to bring the puppy to the station. In a few minutes, Octavio, Guadalupe, and the policeman met to try to solve the problem.
While they both told their stories, the puppy ran about the police station office, getting into all sorts of mischief. Everybody involved wanted justice to prevail, wanted to act in the best interests of the puppy, but how to know what to do? There was no bill of sale, no receipt for a puppy; it was her word against his. The policeman pondered the situation for a moment, and then his face brightened. “Octavio, Guadalupe, go get your cars, park them there in front, next to the curb. Then get out of your car, leave the door open, and do what I tell you.
While the policeman held the puppy, they did as he had asked. When they were ready, he instructed them, “Ok, now both of you call the dog.” and he put the puppy down. With both calling the puppy, he ran immediately to Octavio’s truck, and jumped into the front seat, ignoring Guadalupe. Octavio got in his truck, closed the door, and drove home.
The policeman said to Guadalupe “I am sorry, the only way I could solve the problem was to let the dog tell us who his owner was, and I think you can see he did. I believe you thought it was yours, and it was an honest mistake. Maybe we will find your dog.” Guadalupe drove back home, and the policeman returned to his paperwork. All was well once again in Bahia de los Angeles.
Probably one day the ever encroaching tentacles of “civilization” will reach Bahia, but I hope not too soon. We recently got our first stop sign, so it is on its way for sure. And when the bureaucracy, and the laws, and rules, and regulations, and CC&R’s, and building codes, and inspections and all the trappings of civilization do reach us, we will have lost something that makes this place special, and that worked well for us for a long time, just as it did for Octavio and his puppy.