One of the questions that comes across my mind often is “Is _____ dangerous?”
By “_____”, I’m thinking of a number of places in South America I haven’t been to yet.
Specifically, these days I am thinking about Venezuela, a country which I have been curious about for some time, and which sits just across the border from Colombia, where I’ve been spending most of my time.
I’ve heard a number of really bad stories related to Venezuela, from robberies and kidnappings to blatant police corruption and extortion. These are all from people I have met face-to-face.
These types of stories make me hesitate to visit Venezuela, as they well should. No one should enter a country blindly, without considering the realities of a place.
But it got me thinking…
Danger is part of the package when it comes to South America.
I mean, really, honestly, truthfully… it’s just part of the package.
It’s what you get. It’s part of the deal.
I mean, I really hope that one day the people of South America will just give up committing crimes, especially petty theft which seems to be rampant across the continent.
But there’s really no sense in expecting a ‘day of recompense’ will occur, that everyone will suddenly get their ‘just desserts’, or that the whole atmosphere of life will change.
Danger is part of the package. Plan on it.
Anyone who tells you otherwise is either ignorant or is not being truthful.
If you’re a little new to all of this, let me rattle off the top of my head a few stories I’ve come across…
First, there was a mass killing in the Envigado neighborhood over New Years. Envigado is known as one of the nicer neighborhoods in the Medellin metro area, and is where many foreigners stay when they come to visit.
Yet, did anyone ever tell you that Oficina de Envigado, a gang descended from Pablo Escobar’s groups, still has a presence there? Did anyone tell you about the 9 people who were murdered one night?
Second, I was talking with an Asian man who had been living in Medellin for a number of years. He had bought a motorcycle to get around the city. Guess what happened to him?
One day, while he was riding through town, he was surrounded at a stoplight by 4 other motos. They threw him off his bike while it was running, got on it, and rode off before he knew what happened. This was in Medellin at an ordinary stoplight.
Third, I talked to a Latino man who was visiting Medellin during his travels through the country. In the span of 4 days he was here, he was robbed at gunpoint not once, but twice. This happened in a span of 4 days to a native Spanish speaker, who does not look like a gringo, and who was simply walking through the streets of the city.
Or how about my buddy whose bag was ripped open and looted of $3000 worth of photography equipment on an Ecuadorian bus? Or the American tourist who was found in a trash can along the coast? (Ecuador is really high on my naughty list when it comes to being robbed or jipped.)
Or how about the traveler I met who had no problems with anything until they were robbed at gunpoint in Santiago, which these days is purported to be the safest capital in South America?
Or how about the other traveler I met who was physically assaulted and tackled from behind in Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro? He was held facedown against the concrete with a gun to his head while the assailant demanded his wallet.
Or for god sakes what about the Colombian woman I met who was kidnapped by a normal looking taxi directly in front of Bogotá‘s zona rosa? If you’ve been there, you know it– Zona T.
These are all stories I can quote off the top of my head without too much difficulty. I have heard dozens and dozens of stories like them.
Comments like “Well, it’s like that in any part of the world” are simply ignorant.
It is NOT like that in any part of the world.
In many parts of the world, people actually are peaceful and not given to crimes such as these. Petty theft is not as rampant in other parts of the world.
Yes, and I know, South America is not the ONLY place where petty crime is a constant worry.
But it’s naive to believe that there’s some kind of equal distribution of danger across all geography on the planet, or that South America does NOT have a serious problem with theft… The city I grew up in in the US, for example, is simply not the same as Ecuador in this regard. Period.
Once you’ve gotten use to taking a few precautions, you really don’t think about all the possibilities of getting robbed or assaulted on a daily basis unless you venture wayyy off the beaten path. There’s often safety in numbers, and just by going with other people to wherever you’re going, you’re probably not going to have too many problems.
I’ve written this post to get your attention… It’s not like you need to become paranoid about everyone and everything down here. You gotta keep your head up and live moment to moment.
Danger is part of the package… But so is beauty.
There’s a great life to be lived down here that you learn to accept things as they come and deal with the (sometimes harsh) realities of where you are.
Danger + Beauty = Adventure.
Guess that means I’ll see you in Venezuela? 😉