Miguel Angel and San Charbel



A few years ago I read a review of a film called Game Six, and although it was not very favorable, I wanted to see it because its script was written by Don DeLillo, a writer I admire. I lamented that this was precisely the sort of small independent film that would never in my wildest dreams make it to Mexico City.

Six days later, I was having lunch in a cantina in the Colonia Narvarte called La Mansión de Oro. A man whose face indicated a great deal of life experience entered, and began to circulate from table to table. From a satchel, he was selling piles of pirated DVDs of recent films. Most were the usual suspects – the latest releases from Disney, action movies, blockbusters based on comic book characters. But there were also art movies from France and Japan, a smattering of black-and-white classics, and – lo and behold – Game Six.

After I made my purchases, the salesman, whose name is Miguel Ángel Zamora López, gave me a little card bearing the image of San Charbel, a Lebanese Maronite monk who was enshrined in 1977 by Pope John Paul II. He has become one of Mexico City’s most popular saints in recent years. (There are some 400,000 Mexicans of Lebanese descent, and they were the first to embrace Charbel and include him in their masses.) Miguel Ángel, pictured above, is one of the saint's truest believers.

After buying the film I invited Miguel Ángel have a drink with me. He told me he hadn’t touched alcohol in 17 years, so we made a date to have a coffee later that week. His dramatic story – and that of San Charbel – are in my book First Stop in the New World.