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!

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