Pedro the Parabolic Pirate and DIRECTV

Moving to Mexico City in the mid 1990s, was no big deal to a lifelong expatriate like Annie. But she did have to admit that there was one thing she'd miss terribly, her beloved PBS.

US-based friends said, what about DIRECTV?

DIRECTV? In Mexico City, Mexico? She'd already learned of those who'd say, "Oh you're moving to New Mexico." No darling, she'd respond trying not to roll her eyes like a teen-aged girl, Old Mexico.

Her husband Ken was told by a US based salesman at the local USA Radio Shack, "Yes, you could get DIRECTV in Mexico, but it isn't exactly legal. All you'd need is a slightly bigger satellite dish." Helpful salesman that he was, he sold Ken the slightly bigger satellite dish.

The how-to-do-it information was surprisingly supplied by the American DIRECTV representatives. When Ken called from Mexico City the representative clearly had zero issue with this being "not exactly legal". So it came to pass that Annie paid for DIRECTV in the USA and received the programming in Mexico City.

It worked wonderfully--that is until the late 1990s when The War Between Local and Network Broadcasters happened.

The War began as wars often do, over power and money. The local affiliates of ABC, CBS and NBC went to battle with the networks of ABC, CBS and NBC over the availability of the network programming on DIRECTV. The local affiliates believed that they would lose local advertising revenue if people watched the national feed of the networks' programs on DIRECTV, so DIRECTV was cut off the network programming.

Alas, Ken could no longer get his weekly tearjerker fix of Thursday night's ER; Annie went cold turkey ending her addiction to X-Files. Would Mulder ever learn what happened to his sister?

By now the internet offered other ways, albeit a very slow and often crashing dial-up internet in Mexico City, but this was a woman on a mission. Searching her network in Mexico City, Annie found a secondhand satellite dish for sale.

But how would she get the programming?

The seller of the dish helpfully offered, "Oh, that's no problem. Just call Pedro."

So Annie did. Pedro the Parabolic Pirate advised her that yes, he could supply her with satellite programming--but that he could also get her a DIRECTV card to work on her current system. Really, she skeptically asked? Really?

The couple's addiction to USA TV would cost about US$1000 at the start, but would allow them to use their current DIRECTV dish. Annie paid Pedro and crossed her fingers.

Pedro the Parabolic Pirate's work

Pedro the Parabolic Pirate's work

So it came to pass that the card arrived to replace her defunct DIRECTV card--and what a card it was. The usual blue card that slipped into the box had been rigged with additional wires soldered on the outside of the slot, looking like it had been created by Dr. Frankenstein. But it worked. The happy couple once again hunkered down to watch US programming.

Then one day the card stopped working as did all of Pedro's pirated cards. According to a Los Angeles Times news story, DIRECTV was making a big drive to once and for all--especially before the 2001 Super Bowl--block all of the pirated cards worldwide.

But the ingenuity of humans is not just legendary, and Pedro and others of his ilk found another way around the problem. For yet another $300 Pedro would import new pirated cards from another land where people were not exactly legally allowed to buy US DIRECTV, the land of Canada.

How NAFTA in spirit, if not exactly by the letter of the law (depending on whose law you followed).

Ken Burns Jazz series was viewable, as Pedro the Parabolic Pirate had come through once again.

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    Candace Drimmer

    I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew my father had accepted a job in Houston TX. I was ecstatic, it was a foreign land in 1961 America. After high school graduation, my parents’ gave me a matched set of fawn-colored hardsided American Tourister luggage. Taking the hint, I went to college; well four colleges in five years--it was the 60s after all. Meeting a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, I fell in love. After finishing up college coursework for my degree, but before I even walking a graduation stage, I grabbed the paper airline ticket my boyfriend had sent me, my brand-new passport, and was off to the airport and Lima, Peru.

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