I learned a lot of new Spanish words out of necessity over the past three days while talking with the Mexican police, neighbors, and the people at the U.S. consulate. I haven’t told very many people at home about the robbery yet because, once again I am without an Internet connection, or rather, this time, a computer. Thus, my thoughts about the whole ordeal have been suspended. They are in purgatory. Thought Purgatory…which is where thoughts that have not yet been judged go to await a Revelation.
John and Lydian had trouble sleeping on the night of the robbery. (I didn’t.) John lay awake on the couch watching TV until 2:00 AM with the front window open because we have no air conditioning and it was a hot night. He may have closed the window when he came upstairs or he may have left it open. He can’t remember, but normally, he’d close the window. It doesn’t really matter because our house was clearly being cased that night. He came upstairs for an hour or perhaps 90 minutes and lay awake. Finally, he went downstairs to get some Tylenol PM.
He said he was bleary-eyed when he went down the stairs for the sleep meds. He turned on the bathroom light, which was located on the other side of the kitchen. Then, he fished through the medications and found what he needed, sitting briefly on the closed toilet with the light on to think before going back upstairs.
On my cell phone, I have a white noise program that I use to drown out the sounds of dogs, people, trucks, and loud music in
Latin American countries. Shortly after John came upstairs, he heard whispering. He listened, but thought perhaps it was Lydian whispering to herself in her room. Normally, John would get up to investigate something like this, but he said he was tired and just wanted to fall asleep. I was sleeping soundly. He heard a door slam and thought again that it must be Lydian. Two hours later, he got up at 6:30 AM.
This was when he discovered that someone had slashed a hole in the screen of our window, hopped through it and stolen all three of our computers, our passports, credit cards, and some of our luggage sometime during the four hours when he was upstairs.
He came upstairs and first checked on Lydian in her room. She was okay and sleeping soundly. Then, he came into our bedroom and shook me violently. I rolled over, confused, and looked at him.
“WE’VE BEEN ROBBED!” He said, and then he ran out of the room and down the hall.
Lydian emerged from her room. I put myself together and we all padded about the house with our heavy bare feet, assessing our losses. I still had my Kindle. Lydian still had her guitar. We still had our lives. We were lucky? We were unlucky?
I recalled the year prior in Progreso when Iracema and Marta had been robbed. They had just had a new window installed at the school and someone had thrown a rock through it. When I arrived for classes that morning, glass was all over the floor and Marta walked from room to room crying with various people who came to offer reassurances. In the kitchen, was a roll of paper towels covered with blood from the perpetrator. I had seated myself at a table and watched the hopelessness and helplessness of the situation until I saw the bloody paper towel roll.
When I saw the blood paper towels, I got up from my seat to go over and urge Marta not to touch them. After all, the police would be able to get DNA evidence perhaps from the blood. Marta had the paper towel roll in her hand when I approached her and as I walked I remembered that though there are police officers in Mexico, law enforcement is virtually non-existent. There are laws in Mexico but they’re hardly ever enforced by the police. Indeed, the police never even showed up to investigate the scene of that crime. Sometimes, of course, the police are even in on crimes.
Our computers had been in our living room, on the tables along with a variety of other expensive electronic devices, but the robbers left the other items untouched. Indeed, they forgot to steal the power cables for two of our computers, which essentially renders them useless. John was able to call the embassy right away with the phone that had been left behind. We called Marta. The people at the embassy told us to call the police and file a report because it would be necessary, or at least helpful in getting new passports at the consulate.
Around 7:30 AM, a very tiny, heavily armored police officer showed up at our house to put on a show for us. In my opinion, it was all theatrics. I just wanted him to leave so we could get on with the rest of the things we needed to do. Shortly thereafter, Marta showed up in a blaze, scolding the officer severely. Then, three other police officers showed up. One of them, a female, chided John for having his family stay in such an unsafe house. They asked us questions. Some of the old women in the neighborhood ambled over to our house to offer opinions and speculations about who the culprit(s) might be. John was whisked away with Iracema to go to the police station outside of town. Almost everyone agreed that the neighbors across the street probably took the computers. I knew, however, that it didn’t matter whether there was evidence or witnesses, or anything compelling. We would never see our computers or passports again.
I started packing immediately. I had almost started packing the night before anyway just to get a head start on it (we were leaving in only 8 days), but thanked the powers that be that I’d been lazy. If I had packed, we probably would’ve lost everything.
Some men showed up with cameras and asked to be let into the house. They gave me John’s name and said they were from the Ministerio Publico. I let them in. They did fingerprinting and took photos of our stuff. Again, it was very theatrical. One of the men looked around and tried to keep himself busy, but it was like he really didn’t know what to do with himself. I imagined his real function was to talk with the angry tourists and reassure them that the Mexican authorities were doing “everything in their power” to make things right.
I kept packing but watched the men closely at the same time. I didn’t know if we would be able to leave the house and go to a hotel (Did we have access to our money? Could we stay in a hotel without passports?), but I didn’t really feel like trying to sleep another night in the house. I felt lucky that Lydian had not been raped, murdered, or kidnapped. And I felt lucky that we had a few valuable items left in our stash.
Shortly after the photographers/fingerprinters left, I saw a man standing across the street, looking into our house with his sunglasses on as I went from room to room gathering things up.
Iracema finally arrived with John from the police station. The man who was standing across the street with his sunglasses on waved to John and John went over to him and went inside the house with him. Iracema left. The man started talking really fast to John in Spanish and said he wanted to help us. John told him to talk to me because he couldn’t understand what the man was saying. “Jose” followed John across the street to our house.
We needed to go to the consulate in Merida as soon as possible to get new passports, but this man claimed to know who stole our computers. I doubted that this was true and further, I doubted that it would matter whether he knew who stole the computers or not. The police weren’t going to do anything and didn’t care. But Jose insisted that he knew who took the computers and wanted to show John where this person lived.
John ended up going in a car with Jose to go see this house. Moments after he left, Iracema arrived back at our house and told us that Jose was part of a “gang” and that he too was a criminal. Jose at this time was transporting John across town. There was a rendezvous with an English-speaking fellow near the San Francisco Supermarket. This English-speaking man and Jose conferred and decided that Chu-Chi was muy loco and definitely the type of guy who would break into our house in the middle of the night and steal something.
“So what do you want me to do?” The man turned to John and asked. John shrugged nervously and told him he didn’t know.
“Jose just brought me here to talk to you. “John said. “Maybe you could tell Jose that it would be nice if he told the police about Chu-Chi.” The man relayed the message to Jose. John wondered if Jose and the man were going to take him to the house to “start something”. The man got out of the car and Jose turned around and proceeded to Chu-Chi’s house, which was near our house. John was supposed to snap a photo. The whole idea of taking a picture of some crazy guy’s house sounded loco. John wasn’t sure why he was in the car. He and I hadn’t been thinking clearly and hadn’t had a chance to decide on a plan of action when Jose had intervened in the whole affair.
Jose was driving slowly at this point, John speculated, because he was truly afraid of this man, Chu-Chi and what he would do if he caught Jose with John snapping photos of his house. It was around this time that Iracema was explaining to me that she was concerned that Jose was going to take John to some criminal’s house to do God Knows What to him. At about the same time, John was thinking, “I wonder if this guy strategically took me away from the house so that someone could case it again.”
As soon as Iracema told me her thoughts on Jose, I had Lydian text John,”COME HOME NOW.” John saw the text and
literally jumped out of Jose’s car in the middle of the street and started running home. Jose grabbed John and saved him from being hit by a car as he exited the car and then John sprinted the three blocks back home. About one minute after Lydi sent the text, John came through the door, sweating, but ready for…whatever.
There was talk of drug-addicted gang-bangers with knives and guns busting into our house to find anything of value. There was talk of little boys, young criminals under the tutelage of more experienced adult criminals, slipping in discreetly through a window to get our things. The fellow named “Chu-Chi” might have taken our things, but it was just as likely that Jose himself or perhaps his little minions had stolen the computers. Indeed, a couple of our neighbors regularly sacrifice chickens and other animals to Satan according to Iracema and another old lady across the street who says she’s seen the black rituals with her own eyes. The woman next door to us purportedly has a boyfriend who had been in prison several times for robbery. According to Marta, even “Elsiamira”, a little old lady across the street who gave us hugs and kisses every time we returned from outings had family members who had been imprisoned for robbery.
Our losses were negligible. We travel with crappy computers for this reason, though the passport replacements ended up being quite pricey. John had about $200 MXN in his wallet which is less than $12. He carries two wallets and the other one still had my debit card and driver’s license in it, which became important the next day when we were stopped by the police and robbed again along the highway. We had copies of our passports, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, credit cards, etc. in another piece of luggage that were sitting next to the ones that were stolen. This made things at the consulate much easier. I felt like I should be a lot more upset about the situation than I was, but I was just really glad that none of us were hurt or killed. Everyone who’s spent any time in Mexico at all has been robbed. Iracema got robbed twice in one month once. One expat woman told us that she got robbed three times before the owners of her building finally put bars on her windows.
Whenever we travel, we take copies of passports, credit cards, social security cards, etc. with us. We leave copies of these things at home in the states as well. We’ve never had to use them, but if we hadn’t had them, getting new passports would have been an ordeal. The only valuable things we take with us when we travel are our computers and associated electronic devices that function as cameras and books. The computers are generally the cheapest Windows machines we can find. So I suppose you could say we’re smart when we travel. Or you could say we’re stupid for traveling what with the inherent risks involved. Anyway, I felt more like a lucky person, than an unlucky person as Wednesday drew to a close. Though in some ways, it seemed as though we had survived a relatively precarious situation unscathed, I don’t think our survival was ever in the balance. In our case, I think being robbed was just about being robbed. Losing some stuff and then choosing to be pissed or not to be pissed about it.