Uber driver, Raiders fan gracious in aftermath of Mexico City earthquake

Updated November 18, 2017 - 2:32 pm

MEXICO CITY — Gabriel, the Uber driver with the black Chevrolet Tahoe, was one minute away from the group of Las Vegans standing in front of entrance seven at the international airport.

It was the minute that became the endless minute.

Gabriel was nowhere to be found after 10 minutes, but, according to the Uber map, he was still one minute away.

The tired reporters who made the trek to Mexico’s capital city for Sunday’s Raiders-Patriots game at Estadio Azteca didn’t give up on Gabriel. Maybe he was stuck in traffic.

Ten minutes then became 20, and Gabriel’s car on the Uber map hadn’t moved.

Uber ride canceled. Gabriel made an easy 150 pesos ($8) for taking a nap at a parking lot across the street.

The next three Uber rides requested never showed up, either. The Americans began to get frustrated with Uber Mexico, but then they were saved by an Angel — Angel was the second part of his first name.

“Never trust a guy with two first names,” a suspicious Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney said.

This Uber hero had a last name, actually two. Miguel Angel Martinez Ayala went beyond out of his way to show the Las Vegans parts of the city that were hit the hardest during the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that killed hundreds Sept. 19.

Praying woman

From the first few minutes of getting into Ayala’s black Nissan, it was easy to tell he was a friendly man with extensive knowledge of his hometown, and a fearless driver by the way he cruised around the busy streets.

Ayala, 35, seemed like the type that doesn’t panic under stress, which was evident when he didn’t have an answer to a question from his passengers. A rarity from the walking encyclopedia we spent almost five hours with.

“I’m a history buff,” Ayala said in Spanish. “If I don’t know the answer, there’s a simple solution … always Google.”

I was reassured by Ayala’s bravery when he told me his story from the day of the earthquake.

A middle-aged woman requested an Uber ride to a building in the center of Mexico City. Instead of just dropping her off, Ayala decided to park and walk the lost woman to the office she needed to get to.

The two were on the second floor when the building began to shake. The woman immediately dropped to her knees and began to pray. The intrepid Ayala called the experience a “cool roller coaster.” But Ayala knew he needed to calm the woman.

After hours of being stuck in the building, Ayala was able to get to his car unharmed.

“I remember seeing frightened people covered in blood walking barefoot on the streets,” Ayala said. “It took me almost five hours to drive four and a half miles. It was chaos.”

Tour guide

Ayala realized we were headed the wrong way when he found out we wanted to get to Colegio Enrique Rebsamen, an elementary school in Villa Coapa that was crushed during the earthquake and had 25 people die, including 21 children from ages 7 to 10.

The father of two young boys instantly offered to be our tour guide and help us coordinate interviews.

Ayala, who also is an accountant, began to point at the buildings that sustained major damage, like the recently built establishment that fell onto the highway, and the five-floor building that instantly collapsed on the street of Calle Alvaro Obregon. There was also the Galerias Coapa (mall) that split in half.

“It’s hard for people to forget about the earthquake when the rubble of the fallen buildings are still visible,” Ayala said. “You walk down the street and see one destroyed building after seeing four to five buildings perfectly fine and still standing.

“The city and the government have done a poor job of cleaning up the mess. Everything is just sitting there.”

Once we arrived to the school, a police officer with a rifle hanging from his chest wanted to give us a hard time. Ayala talked him into leaving us alone.

Ayala then asked a woman who was guarding her belongings in the apartment complex next to the school to do an interview. He made her feel at ease while she told her story from the horrific afternoon.

Everywhere we went, the people loved Ayala. It was as if they knew him for years.

Ayala’s strong people skills and his expertise around the city allowed us to see what the people of Mexico City are going through and how hard they’re fighting during a difficult period that has no end in sight.

Football provides escape

Ayala’s favorite sport is soccer, and he despises Club America. He’s a Pumas UNAM fan. America and Pumas are intercity rivals in Mexico City from the Mexican soccer league Liga MX.

But when he’s not watching futbol, he’s cheering for his Raiders. The Silver and Black have been a family favorite since the days of Tom Flores as coach.

“I’ll cheer for my Raiders, but the Patriots are winning,” an honest Ayala said.

Ayala said the city isn’t American football crazy, as the media makes it seem. It’s usually a game for the rich Mexicans and tourists from the U.S. But this year, the Raiders and Patriots will provide locals with an escape for a few hours.

“The locals are very excited for this game,” Ayala said. “The public is happy because it’s a distraction for them after the earthquake.

“On the political level, it’s been a disaster. The government hasn’t done things right since the earthquake. Over here, they have committed many errors.”

When the Raiders and Patriots pack up, the people affected by the earthquake will go back to wondering where they can take their next shower and when will the government allow them to return home or provide shelter.

Ayala has lived in Mexico City his entire life. He added a visit to Las Vegas to his bucket list when he found out the Raiders are moving to Southern Nevada with a shiny new stadium.

“First thing I’m going to do is visit the “Pawn Stars” shop,” Ayala said. “That’s my favorite show.”

Gilbert Manzano covers the NFL for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com. Follow @gmanzano24 on Twitter.

Raiders Videos
Vegas Nation Stadium Show: Retractable Field Update - VIDEO
Much like the Arizona Cardinals field, the Raiders will also be playing on a field tray that can be retracted in order to maintain real grass. Vegas Nation host Cassie Soto and Las Vegas Review- Journal reporter Rick Velotta discuss the latest updates regrading the Las Vegas Stadium as well as the groundbreaking of the Raiders headquarters in Henderson.
Raiders Henderson Practice Facility Render - VIDEO
Video of the Raiders practice facility that will be built in Henderson Nevada.
Raiders Headquarters Groundbreaking Ceremony - VIDEO
The Raiders make Henderson their new home with a groundbreaking ceremony. Derek Carr and many other players past a present came together to celebrate the new location. Cassie Soto and Ed Graney report from Henderson, Nevada.
Former Raider James Harris says fans will follow the team "to the moon" - VIDEO
The Oakland Raiders will play in Las Vegas when their team's move is completed in 2020. Former Raiders' defensive end and Las Vegan, James Harris, says fans will follow and support the team "to the moon".
Jim Plunkett on the Raiders' move to Las Vegas, changes under Gruden
At the groundbreaking ceremony for the Raiders new headquarters in Henderson, Nevada, former quarterback Jim Plunkett gave his thoughts on the new facility, the team's move to Las Vegas and what the future holds for the team with head coach Jon Gruden.
JT The Brick says where he thinks the Raiders should play in 2019
At the Raiders headquarters groundbreaking ceremony in Henderson, Nevada, radio host J.T. The Brick gave his take on where he thinks the team should play in 2019 and provided his thoughts on their three, first-round draft picks and more.
Raiders Hold Groundbreaking Ceremony For Henderson Practice Facility
The Raiders hold a groundbreaking ceremony in Henderson for the new practice facility for the teams move to Las Vegas.
A quick look at the Raiders HQ in Henderson
The Raiders held a groundbreaking ceremony for their Las Vegas headquarters, which is based in Henderson, on Monday, Jan. 14th.
Designers of Raiders Field Learn Lessons from Cardinals
The retractable grass in the future home of the Raiders will look largely like an updated and improved version of the field tray system used at State Farm Stadium, home of the Phoenix Cardinals. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Nation: Mahomes Throws his 50th TD in Victory over the Raiders
The Oakland Raiders lose the last game of the season to the Kansas City Chiefs 35-3. Pat Mahomes throws his 50th touchdown and the Chiefs take first place in the division. Cassie Soto is in studio and Michael Gehlken and Ed Graney report from Kansas City.
Raiders look ahead to next season after loss to Chiefs
After the Oakland Raiders' 35-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, players analyze their play and look ahead to what they can do better in the next season.
Vegas Nation: Raiders hire Mike Mayock as new GM
Raiders beat reporter describes newly-hired general manager's opening press conference.
Vegas Nation: Players receive signing bonuses
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken explains why four players received roster bonuses and what that means for their respective futures on the roster.
Vegas Nation Mailbag: Will the Raiders play in Oakland next season?
The Raiders get an emotional win against the Denver Broncos. The game was potentially the Raiders last time playing in the colosseum due to a lawsuit from the city of Oakland. Elaine Wilson and Ed Graney go over the Raider Nation reaction to the game an news.
Vegas Nation: Miller and Parker draw praise
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken takes a look at Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker's Monday Night Football performance against the Denver Broncos.
Vegas Nation: Raiders to face Chiefs in season finale
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken describes how the team is doing after their emotional win over the Denver Broncos, and how they're preparing for the last game of the year in Kansas City.
Raiders Win Emotional Game Against Broncos - Vegas Nation
The Oakland Raiders win their Monday Night football game against the Denver Broncos. This game is potentially the last time the Raiders will play in Oakland before coming to Las Vegas. Vegas Nation host Cassie Soto, Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken and Ed Graney go over the emotional win.
Carr, Gruden reflect on what could be the last game played in Oakland
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr comment on what could be the the last home game the team played at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Raiders locker room after victory over Broncos
Raiders players Jalen Richard, Lee Smith, Karl Joseph, and Erik Harris react to defeating the Denver Broncos in what could be the final game at the Oakland Coliseum.
Raiders fans react to possible final game in Oakland
Raiders fans from around the country respond to the team potentially playing their final game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum prior to Monday night's game against the Denver Broncos.
Vegas Nation: Raiders hold final practice before MNF
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken describes the trouble Von Miller and Bradley Chubb bring to the Raiders offensive line, as well as who's questionable for Monday night's game against the Denver Broncos.
Vegas Nation: McCarron returns to practice
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken reports that back up quarterback AJ McCarron returned to practice on Friday following the birth of his son.
Vegas Nation: Nathan Peterman practices with Raiders
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken unveils the reaction Jon Gruden received after signing quarterback Nathan Peterman to the practice squad.
Vegas Nation Mailbag - December 19, 2018
Elaine Emerson and Ed Graney go over all burning Vegas Nation Raiders questions
Vegas Nation: Raiders prepare for potential final game in Oakland
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken reports on how Christmas Eve could be the final game in Oakland for the Raiders, and how Jon Gruden will handle it with himself and the players.
RJ columnist Ed Graney goes in-depth to find out if an NFL team would have success in London
While London's Cray Wanderers may be the one of the oldest football clubs in the world, could an NFL team have the same success overseas? (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal @HeidiFang)
Raiders Fall To Bengals 30-16 - Vegas Nation
Raiders fall to the Cincinnati Bengals 30-16. Vegas Nation host Cassie Soto and Raiders beat writer Michael Gehlken recap the loss.
Raiders players on the team's loss to the Bengals
Raiders running back Doug Martin and tight end Darren Waller discuss their performances against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Gruden and Carr share positive outlook on remaining games
After suffering a 30-16 loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati, Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr think the team can still finish the season strong.
NFL Draft Coming to Las Vegas in 2020 - Vegas Nation
The NFL Draft has been awarded to Las Vegas in 2020 as the Raiders move in. Michael Gehlken discusses what this means for the the city and the Raiders.
Vegas Nation: Osemele, Jackson miss practice on Thursday
Raiders beat reporter Michael Gehlken explains the injuries to offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson, and who the Raiders have signed to the offensive line in response to those injuries.
Raiders vs Bengals Preview - Vegas Nation Mailbag
The Oakland Raiders will face off against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Vegas Nation Mailbag host Elaine Emerson and sports columnist Ed Graney answer all of Raider Nation's burning questions about the upcoming game.
Las Vegas Raiders Stadium
Las Vegas Raiders Stadium (Raiders)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like