When most people think of getting robbed…..
They usually are thinking of some evil criminal pulling a gun on you and threatening to kill you for your money.
Or they think of the IRS.
But getting robbed by the police?
Aren’t they supposed to protect us?
Well, not in Mexico.
I remember in my first year in Mexico City a while back when I was walking with this Peruvian girl named Maria on a date.
And we got lost for a second and I asked this random cop on the street about directions somewhere.
We were somewhere near the Historic Center at the time and the cop helped us out.
No big deal.
Except Maria told me that I shouldn’t do that.
Because what if the cop tries to rob me or something.
That you shouldn’t trust the cops.
Now, in theory, I understand what she meant as I heard stories of such things happening in Mexico and Latin America.
But I never had any personal experience with it…
And well, I’m young and like to think of myself as invincible.
It wasn’t until a later point that I understood what she meant.
Which brings us to a time when I lived in a part of Mexico near a metro station called Cuatro Caminos.
Welcome to Cuatro Caminos
Living in Mexico City….
I first started living in La Roma…
But after having financial difficulties, I decided to move to a cheaper part of Mexico City where rent was, if I remember right, about $125 USD a month.
With utilities included.
Well, as they say, you get what you pay for.
On my arrival to the street where this apartment was located, I remember being dropped off on this street with my last girlfriend (who was Mexican).
It felt a bit like we were in some movie where two obvious foreigners end up in a place where they know they shouldn’t be.
The street all along it had what looked like warehouses with broken windows.
Some type of gangbangers paradise or whatever.
And my girlfriend at the time was like “where the hell are we?!”
Well, standing on the sidewalk with about 3 suitcases, some backpacks and other bags…
We call the landlord, whose name was Daniel, to tell him we are there.
He answers and goes outside and waves at us.
Being at the very end of the street.
So we struggle to get all our stuff to the other end of the street where he was…
But finally we get everything over to the building and inside my new room.
I pay the rent and deposit.
And he gives me the keys.
Except there were some obvious issues.
The sink wasn’t working properly and the water that goes down the drain had to go into a bucket.
There was literal dog shit in the shower (because the owner had a dog obviously).
There were a few broken windows.
And, as I later found out, the area was a bit dangerous where I occasionally heard gunshots and it apparently had a reputation for being dangerous.
To my fault, I didn’t properly investigate this place.
A lesson learned.
The only reason I ended up here was, as I hinted more at in this article here, I was desperate to stay in Mexico.
And keep the dream alive of living abroad and being financially independent.
But was very lazy beforehand and never worked.
So ending up in this area was basically the consequence for being too damn lazy.
And, suffice to say, I learned my lesson pretty quick that being too lazy to work has consequences.
Which is why I got off my ass and improved my life from then.
But that’s another story that you can read about here.
Either way, back to the story…
After my girlfriend cooked some food – chicken with hashbrowns.
She is too scared to go outside and walk to the metro station – which was about a 10 minute walk away.
Her phone wasn’t working and mine was having problems too.
And she wanted an uber.
And she was petrified of going outside at night in this neighborhood.
She even started to cry a little bit from the fear as I wasn’t allowed to have anyone sleeping over that night and it was time to go.
But I managed to convince her to take the walk.
Once we got to the metro station, she told me that she will never walk through that area at night again.
Very quickly though, she got braver and was willing to walk through that area at night with me without any problems.
But, in hindsight, she obviously was smarter about the dangers of that street than I was.
And perhaps I should have listened to her…
Getting Robbed Near Cuatro Caminos
A few months later…
I wake up on another day living in this same apartment.
And it is time for me to get going.
My girlfriend and I were going to Starbucks that day.
Which there is one in this mini shopping area above the actual metro station of Cuatro Caminos.
It’s a usual spot that we went to since they have ice cold black tea and the music they always played was nice.
Usually a bit of bossa nova for some reason.
Either way, I step outside the entrance to the building..
And I began walking along the way.
Now during my walk, I get stopped by the police.
This policeman stopped me and started asking me some questions…
Like where was an hour ago and whatever else.
And he says he needs to inspect my backpack.
He starts going through it and I started to have my suspicions that he is looking for a bribe.
Maybe he is looking for something in my backpack that he can accuse me of stealing or whatever.
Either way, fine – he can check it.
I didn’t have anything in it because I was going to stop at my girlfriend’s place to pick up some stuff I left behind.
Anyway, he is done inspecting but accuses me of a crime.
What is the crime?
Taking a piss in the street.
And he takes me in his vehicle at this point.
And basically starts driving me around and threatening to put me in jail unless I pay a big fine.
I forgot the exact amount but it was over 4,000 pesos if I remember right.
Like 4,200 or 4,300 pesos.
Which is over 200 dollars.
Which, obviously, I didn’t have on me.
And he starts playing games with me about how “ok then, I guess you are going to jail!”
And in all honesty, I didn’t really give a shit anymore.
On one hand, I knew he was just looking for a bribe and any amount of money would do.
But also my few months of living in this neighborhood was starting to put a sour taste in my mouth about living in Mexico long term.
It was all fun and games when I still had some of my savings and was living the party life drinking and hooking up often.
Not so fun anymore when you have to struggle to put money in the bank and live in shitty areas.
But, as I said before, that was my own fault.
So if this guy wants to put me in jail and get me deported maybe…
Though a part of me, a part that still exists, was clinging onto the whole living abroad dream.
Another part was saying “fuck this shit then, jail me and deport me, puto.”
And I feel the guy could sense that I didn’t really care if I go to jail or not.
Which, to be fair, might be stupid because maybe I would get shanked in the kidney in a Mexican jail.
But you know what they say – health care is cheap in Mexico so I’m sure a new kidney won’t cost too much….
Maybe 10 pesitos…
Either way, the Mexican cop gets to the point and cuts the bullshit…
“Ok, I can work with you.”
“Give me 2000 pesos and I can let you go.”
Which, by the way, I didn’t have 2,000 pesos (about a 100 usd on me).
Not like I was going to buy a house or something.
I normally don’t have more than 25 dollars on me anyway at a time since it’s not needed.
And especially not in those days when I had maybe only a 100 dollars to my name in my bank account.
No fucking way he getting my last 100!
But nor could he – didn’t have it on me.
So I say that I don’t have it.
And at this point I feel the guy was a little bit pissed.
Like “this pinche fucking gringo, trying to beat me in these negotiations.”
But keep in mind that most of the time Mexicans usually pay about 5 dollars for a bribe anyway when this shit happens.
Maybe more if the situation is worse but that’s what I have been told by other Mexicans I know.
Either way, the guy goes “ok, off to jail then!”
Meanwhile looking at me…
And in hindsight, I’m pretty sure it was just another bullshit tactic to scare me.
But I simply said “I don’t have the money” again.
And he goes “well how much you got?”
And at this point, I simply pull out all the cash I got from my pockets.
Which, to be fair, perhaps might be a dumb thing to do since maybe I could argue for a lower bribe amount.
But I had about 400 pesos on hand from what I remember or about 20 dollars.
He sees that is all I got and nods…
“Ok, esta bien.”
We reach the agreement and he lets me go.
And, as of this writing, that was the only time I ever got robbed by anyone in Mexico or anywhere in Latin America.
In 5 years of living here so far.
I ultimately got out of his vehicle and found my way back and went about the rest of my day.
A bit pissed though to be honest.
But I got over it.
After The Incident
Well, thankfully I no longer live in Cuatro Caminos area.
This incident and some other incidents in that area got my ass to mature a bit.
Along with getting real fucking tired real fucking quick at not having any money and struggling to pay any of the bills.
I guess you can say that sometimes it takes an ass kicking – small or big – to get your shit together.
On top of that, I am a bit less trusting of the police in Latin America in general.
Anytime I see a police vehicle, I’m a little bit mindful of them possibly robbing me again.
Not really a fan of asking police either anymore about directions.
A store owner can do the job just as well and probably isn’t going to accuse me of pissing in the street and looking through my shit to steal 20 dollars.
What’s interesting also is that these incidents of police stealing stuff might get more common in the coming few years.
As, given the date of this writing, we are dealing with the whole coronavirus recession.
And more people are going to be getting desperate.
Check out this story here below that someone posted in a expat group about getting robbed in Mexico City recently as of this writing.
Obviously some have it worse than me when it comes to bribes – that ain’t no 20 dollars!
So, at the end of the day, just be safe.
Only tips I really have for incidents like this are the following:
- Be conversational in Spanish so you can negotiate better.
- Know a lot of folks end up paying around 5 dollars so don’t think that a bribe of a similar amount or slightly bigger won’t satisfy a cop (especially as wages are shit down here and even 20 dollars is OK money down here).
- Don’t carry much on you (in most cases, only try having about 25 to 50 dollars on you at most).
- Try not living in shithole areas if you can help it and don’t be so lazy at making money that you end up there.
- When it comes to being in touristy areas, know you will encounter more folks in those parts trying to rip foreigners off. Just keep that in mind.
Anyway, if you have anything to say, just leave a comment or reach out to me by Twitter here.