Monday, January 5, 2015

We got robbed . . . in 2013

This is a post that I wrote in 2013 after getting robbed on our vacation back to Mexico. I'm not sure why I didn't post it, but alas, here it is.


"Are you sure? Shouldn't we take a taxi?"
"We are fine. We've got Antonio with us. He's Mexican. If he think it's fine, then it's fine." 

We knew we shouldn't have done it. We were so stupid. How many times did we tell the students not to walk down that alley? We never did it when we lived there. Not once. Why in the world did we do it then? Alas, safety is indeed the best policy, and comfort is dangerous. 

Cue the flashing lights, the 15 Mexican police trucks with machine guns, the cops that wanted a bribe, the gawking neighbors shaking their heads, and the two drunk men claiming "I'm not going to lie, I've been drinking a little bit, but we can help. We know them! We know where they live." 

So for the third time in as many years, I had my wallet stolen. The difference was that this time it felt personal. It was maddening. It made me feel like an idiot and a spoiled brat. And it reminded me that even though my "skin is a nice color, it's not so white like other gringos" according to one of my Mexican friends, my skin still radiates rich, white, privileged American girl. 

The most sickening part of the whole ordeal was when I realized that it wasn't actually that harmful or detrimental to our lives. They took so much from us, and it didn't even truly matter. If we wanted, we could just buy it all again. Obviously that would be a big financial strain and student loan payments would stop for a while, but we could. We could buy two nice, expensive cameras, a pair of sunglasses, a necklace and a wallet. It wasn't life changing. How pathetic is that? 

These kids - honestly, they couldn't have been more than 17 or 18 - face the consequences of oppression and violence every day, and live in such poverty that they bought a gun, pointed it at three friends walking down the street and then clumsily and fearfully took their possessions. They risked their lives for a couple hundred dollars, and although it may seem trivial and meaningless for such little payoff, but it means something to them. It means that they have money to give their moms to buy food for dinner, or to buy a new pair of baller shoes from the mall, or maybe even money to buy pot to smoke with friends after school. I'm not sure it really matters what they will use our pesos to buy. What matters is that it does matter to them. The point is that they aren't criminals or drug runners or gangsters. They're kids who live in a colónia in Mexico that doesn't have enough money to go around and even the educated and skilled can't pay their bills.

When I told my boss (a Mexican woman) about the incident, she shook her head and said, "Isn't it so sad what the situation in Mexico is doing to people?" And by "people" she didn't mean Ryan and me. She meant the boys who robbed us. I loved that she responded that way. Of course she did, she's a social worker! But she wasn't shocked or upset on our behalf, she was upset because she saw the context in which the robbery took place, and she saw the kids who stole our things as people who are hurting and struggling to make a life.

It's easy to dismiss those who hurt us as a label (i.e., "thief," "con-artist," "bitch"), but it's much harder to look at those who hurt us as real people with real problems and a real past. I can't begin to imagine their lives, but I think it's pretty safe to assume that I won the lottery in life by being born where I was to the family that I have and to the opportunities that I was given, and they weren't awarded those same chances in life.

Yes, being held-up at gunpoint in an alleyway in Mexico is a crazy soundbite and a pretty good truth for the game "Two Truths and a Lie", and yes, it's scary as shit to look back on the event and realize that someone actually pointed a gun at us. But if all Ryan and I took from that experience was the soundbite and a sense of loss for our things and thought "poor us! We only have ONE digital camera left," then that would be the biggest travesty of all.


One roll of film was recovered from our day in Puebla, and herein lies the final 3 photos of my LOMO camera, may it rest in peace.

The brightly colored street in the center of town exposed over the Cathedral - look closely!

Two different streets in Puebla - look closely!

Our Stable Existence

Our vagrant life has become our stable existence in middle America. It has become an adventure less about discovering new things and more about rediscovering what it means to live near family in the buckle of the Bible Belt. Ryan and I are both full-time workers and part-time graduate students. We have a dog. And a duplex. And an expendable income, ladies and gentlemen! We still speak Spanish and eat chilaquiles and sopes like nobody's business, but we also go to baseball games and eat apple pie.

I'm getting my Masters in Social Work while working as a case manager for Spanish-speaking families in Tulsa. I spend most of my days counseling elementary kids who can't control their anger, middle school and high school boys who sell and/or consume drugs and make bad grades, and moms who desperately need an advocate as well as a translator. I teach English and parenting skills to Mexican and Central American women three mornings a week. We practice the simple tenses together, but mostly we converse about the struggles of being an immigrant, the pain of living with abuse, the confusion of the US school system, and sometimes (often) they make big potluck feasts at 8 in the morning - and sometimes (once) they bring me tequila in a Walgreen's pill bottle to add to my coffee.

Although it has been a transition from the mountains and brightly colored homes of Cuernavaca to the rolling hills and Mid Century homes of Tulsa, we are happy. Very happy.

I am busier than I need to be, and my job stresses me out on the daily, but one of my New Year's Resolutions is to write more often. How many days have I stumbled home, drunk with exhaustion but dying to share a part of my day? Well . . . to be honest, not that often. I try to leave my work at work. I rarely tell Ryan about my day, because more likely than not, it was a hard day with sad shit. However, there are moments that I need to record. And as the interwebbies as my witness, maybe I'll write more than once every 2 years.

Now I will leave you with a picture of why our little duplex in the heart of Tulsa is a very happy place for us. Look at this face!