Lydia started working as a bank teller in Mexico City three years ago and kept her job by being punctual, obedient and as loyal as her father had been in the job before her. She adhered strictly to national banking rules and regulations which, to her, was a show of respect for the employer and her country.
One particular rule is the cash drop, when a teller’s drawer contains more than 1,000 pesos (about $300). The teller is to give the overage to a Head Teller for deposit in the safe. Lydia handled the scant, crumpled bills from neighbors, but as days went on, she noticed fewer people could afford to use the bank. Her own family no longer came in, even her father, as their money went straight to the grocery store. By the end of payday there was no use for a bank.
One afternoon, while eating lunch, Lydia read in the paper about the uprising in Chiapas. Headquartered in the remote, rugged mountains, the paper said the rebels arm themselves by robbing banks in major cities. Lydia began quietly forgetting her drops, imagining a handsome, fearless rebel. Her drawer often exceeded 7,000 pesos. No one noticed.
Lydia had been Head Teller for four months when the EPR finally burst through her bank’s doors. By now five of the six tellers were neglecting to make their drops, and in minutes the rebels collected enough to wage six months of war against the Mexican government. Lydia stood fearless as two men in fatigues and bandanas put a gun to the head of her boss and took what they pleased. One man, she would swear, saw her sly smile, and followed her eyes that motioned to the drop safes, those holes in the floor where the tellers kept their reserve change. The man behind the blue bandana got the message and pulled canvas bags from each hole as if delivering a newborn from each small vault in the tile.
One of the rebels, a woman, pointed her automatic rifle at Lydia’s chest and told her to open the vault. Lydia nodded, walked the woman to the high, sealed room, pressed a few numbers into the electronic keypad and pulled open the door. The men kept the rest of the bank staff in check. The woman’s rifle bobbed and slipped in her arms, unable to handle the stacks of cash and her hostage; seeing everyone else out of sight, the rebel followed Lydia’s eyes up to the ceiling. “Las cámaras no funcionan,” Lydia whispered, and helped push stacks of cash into the woman’s burlap sack. Soon the shelves were clean; Lydia retook her position affront the woman’s rifle.
Lydia returned to the main floor of the bank and marched obediently to her desk in a corner of the bank. She sat erect in the padded chair she’d inherited, and folded her hands on the desktop. As the scruffy army retreated without a shot fired, Lydia looked up at the framed picture of her father that smiled down on her, and waited until all was quiet again.