October 25, 2001
Narco News 2001
Drug Fugitive Bites the Dust
By Stan Gotlieb
(c)2001 by Stan Gotlieb
Del Santo died in Oaxaca, Mexico on
October 12, 2001. He was 50 years old when he succumbed to esophageal
bleeding: just another needless victim of the senseless and destructive
war against people who prefer marijuana over alcohol.
Being an expatriate in Mexico is, by and
large, a positive experience. The Mexican people are friendly,
helpful, patient and understanding. When it comes to medical
care, however, lower levels of training and resources sometimes
dictate a trip back to "the old country" for diagnosis
and treatment. Dan, who probably would still be alive had he
returned to Texas, couldn't do so: he was a fugitive from "justice."
In 1992, Dan was arrested in Virginia,
and charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Released
on his own recognizance, he returned to Austin, Texas, where
he had lived since 1974. An accomplished musician, who had played
with many great blues, jazz, and country rock performers, he
and his guitar were soon accepted into the "Texas outlaw"
scene whose most celebrated personalities were Willie Nelson
and Waylon Jennings, and whose most celebrated recreational drugs
were Lone Star beer and kick-ass marijuana.
Always an innovator, Dan grew restless
in the "outlaw music" scene and, by the mid '80s he
had founded "The Professors of Pleasure," an Afro-Cuban
band. He wore African style clothing. He had his own radio
program every Friday night, featuring third-world music (some
say he coined the phrase "world beat"; other say it
was "world music"). He also began to grow his own
pot: one album cover picture shows him - considerably heavier
than he was by the time that I knew him - standing in his patch.
Dan was not an invisible criminal, sneaking
around on the edges of society doing who-knows-what. He was
an out-front guy. His home grown was well-known for its potency,
as well as its packaging in mason jars. He was, himself, visible
and vocal. No wonder the forces of repression set him up, luring
him to far-away Virginia in order to remove him and his influence
from the local scene. In the end, he chose to disappear into
Mexico, rather than to disappear into prison.
I first met Dan in 1994, when I came to
Oaxaca to live. He had formed a band, "Perros del Sol"
(the Sun Dog is a symbol found in many parts of prehispanic Mexico),
and was singing only his own original compositions, a practice
he continued until his death. He struggled for years to keep
a band together (there is not much money to be made in Oaxaca
if you are a musician, and musicians come and go at a rapid pace),
while writing reams of good, clean, simple blues, reggae, and
rock lyrics, virtually all in Spanish. In the end, he decided
to go solo. He called himself "The Blues Demon", and
performed from two to five nights a week in an Italian restaurant.
was a great guitarist, with a wonderful
sense of timing. His voice, very distinctive, deep and soft,
was not his strongest suit, but it served. He was generous with
other musicians who dropped in to play with him, and sometimes
vacated the stage to give them a chance to do their own thing.
I never saw him lose his temper, or be less than gracious to
Privately, Dan talked to me about the
ironies of his life: how it felt to have been a well-known guitarist
whose presence was sought by other musicians; a local entertainment
personality with thousands of fans; and then end up having to
do his own leafleting on the streets of a provincial Mexican
capital, just to drum up enough cusomers so that the restaurant
he played in would keep him on.
In Oaxaca, the club does virtually nothing
to promote their musical talent. For a long time, they wouldn't
even pay for the costs of the leaflets. They certainly won't
pay for someone to distribute them, and even on the few occasions
when they do, the kids they hire are not very responsible about
passing them out. So Dan did it himself.
Every day that he played in town at night,
he came in early in the morning and canvassed all the places
where the tourists might be found. There was hardly a Friday
or Saturday in the last three years that Dan didn't come by our
table in the Primavera while making his rounds. Fluent in Spanish,
he would stop at each table, hand the occupants a flier, introduce
himself, explain a little about the venue, and answer questions.
Most nights, he brought in a good crowd, based, I am sure, on
his ability to connect personally with strangers in just a few
seconds. He did this even when he should have stayed home in
bed: musicians need to make music for an audience.
Suffering severe back pains from injuries
received in two automobile accidents, as well as diabetes and
high blood pressure, Dan never did find a doctor he trusted.
Depressed by a series of conflicting recommendations for treatment,
he decided to treat himself. Twice, he had been hospitalized
for transfusions because of internal bleeding. He believed (probably
correctly) that the bleeding was a side effect of the medication
he was taking for his back pain, but would not give it up because
it was the only medicine he had found that gave him any relief
from the pain. The third time he went in to the hospital, it
was too late. The bleeding was too widespread and had been going
on too long. It was a painful death.
Del Santo, musician, composer, entertainer,
husband, father, brother, son, friend. Dead at only 50 because
jobs for prison guards, dope police, lawyers, judges, money launderers
and myriad others whose careers depend on the "drug war"
are more important than the right of individuals to celebrate
life as they choose.
Stan Gotlieb, who does
not do drugs, lives in Oaxaca, Mexico, and publishes "An
Expatriate Life" on the Internet at http://www.realoaxaca.com. He also writes "The Oaxaca
/ Mexico Newsletter", an insider newsletter available to
subscribers only. A sample can be seen at http://www.realoaxaca.com/news.html. His email address is email@example.com
Se Olvide, Ni Perdón