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- Speak Spanish with Cops Extorting You in Latin America?
Imagine you are walking around or whatever…
Then, for whatever reason, a local police officer decides to fuck with you.
Sees you as an easy target maybe or whatever.
Anyway, he just wants money.
If you don’t give him a bribe, you might be losing a few hours or some shit dealing with this guy until he’s done with you.
Though, being honest, if it was the female cop in the photo above who wanted a bribe…
I wouldn’t mind losing a few hours to her.
But in all seriousness….
Here’s a question for you – is it better to speak in a language he understands or not?
This is a topic that I have some minimal experience with but not that much while living in Latin America.
In my time down here, I’ve bribed at least 3 people that I can think of.
Only one of them was a cop.
In the Dominican Republic, as you can read here, I bribed some random security guard at a shopping mall for being caught having sex in a bathroom with some chick.
As you can read here, I gave a very small bribe to some worker at a local store here in Mexico to disregard the liquor laws on weekends and sell me a bottle.
And then the cop?
I’m going to give it briefly here because you can read the full story here.
But what happened when I had to bribe a cop in Mexico?
Well, I was living in a crappier part of town known as Cuatro Caminos.
While living over there, I left my apartment building….
And saw a police vehicle at the very end of the long ass street that I was living on.
Which was weird because I rarely if ever saw cops on that specific street.
It was one isolated ass area where Osama Bin Laden would still be alive today if he was hiding there.
Anyway, the police vehicle approaches me…
Then the cop accuses me of pissing in the street even though I literally just left my apartment building.
He takes me into the vehicle.
Asks a lot of questions.
Searches my backpack.
Then tells me that he wants money for my “offense” or else I’m going to jail.
I realized he is just looking for a bribe and only had a small bit of cash on hand.
Anyway, he goes back and forth with me threatening me with jail time.
Trying to scare me.
Ultimately, he cuts the bullshit and goes “ok, there is another way to handle this.”
I give him a small tiny bit of money and that was it.
And he let me go.
Our entire conversation was in Spanish.
And that was it basically.
But that’s not the only example I can think of when it comes to people getting extorted by cops down here.
The European With No English
Some years ago when I was living in Pachuca, Mexico…
There was this guy from Europe that I met at some restaurant in a group that I was part of…
And he speaks Spanish.
But he doesn’t speak a lick of English.
He’s from some small European country that most folks outside of Europe never heard of.
I don’t even remember what it was called.
Anyway, no English.
But enough Spanish to work with.
Anyhow, the dude gets accused of some crime by a cop in Mexico…
The cop, similar to me, puts him in the back of his vehicle without handcuffs.
And, seeing a white foreign guy, obviously assumes that he must speak English!
But no English.
So the cop learns that quickly enough and pulls out the handy Google Translate.
Basically running through every random ass language he could to see if the guy would understand anything he is saying.
Ultimately, none of the languages work.
All during this time, the dude is pretending to not know what he is saying in Spanish either.
And, as I said, the cop simply never picked right the language that the dude speaks apparently.
So that’s that.
He was let off the hook from what he told me!
Didn’t get shit from him.
Even though he did end up wasting some time with the dude going back and forth over the different languages on Google Translate…
You can read more of that story here where gringos sometimes pretend to not speak Spanish to their own benefit.
And that’s the question…
Spanish with the Corrupt Cops?
That’s really what this article comes down to.
The idea to write about this came to my head a few weeks ago when I was listening to a podcast episode of Expat Files as you can see here.
Where, if I remember right, the show mentioned how it is better to pretend like you don’t speak Spanish when dealing with corrupt cops.
I don’t remember the exact logic but I think it was something like “well, if you come across like you don’t speak Spanish, then the cop will eventually give up.”
Which I remember finding that weird that the guy in the podcast mentioned that because I remember in previous shows he had mentioned that it is better if you speak Spanish because the cops can pull out the Google Translate.
So is it better then to pretend like you don’t speak Spanish with the cops?
Keep in mind that I have very limited experience with corrupt cops obviously.
I’ve only had to bribe one corrupt cop down here.
And only know one other guy personally who had to deal with the same.
But here’s my thoughts on the matter.
First, I feel pulling off the ol’ “I don’t speak English” when they pull out the Google Translate won’t work with all cops.
From my perspective, I feel some Latinos down here in Latin America have this belief that all white foreign folks obviously must speak English!
After all, isn’t that the language of white people?!
It’s kinda stupid but it is what it is.
I’ve heard that complaint also from other foreign folks traveling around here.
That complaint often gets mixed in with bitching about how they are called “gringo” even if they are not from the US.
A debate you can read more about in this article I wrote here regarding the use of the word gringo.
Anyway, because of that ignorance some folks have down here, I feel the act of pretending you don’t speak English might not fly with every cop down here.
Second, I just think its kinda stupid to pretend like you don’t speak Spanish.
If you can negotiate with the guy, negotiate.
One thing I did when it came to the corrupt cop I had experience with…
Was simply pull out all the money I had in one of my pockets.
And then tell him “this is all I got, take it or leave it.”
Obviously he can’t do shit about that!
Take it or leave it.
This is what I got.
Even though I did have some money in my shoes also.
But that’s just a tip all around….
Don’t ever carry much on you for anyone to steal.
And sometimes put some money aside in other parts of your body like your shoes or some shit if you happen to be carrying more.
Works for me.
Anyway, I just feel it’s so much easier to negotiate your way out of it obviously if you talk with the guy in his language.
Third, it also might show to a degree that you obviously have experience in Latin America if you speak Spanish…
And so you might come across as not your typical tourist who could be seen as naïve or whatever.
But there’s the other obvious point against all of this…
The main point in favor against speaking any Spanish (and, by extension, English) would be that the dude simply can’t steal from you, right?
After all, if you two can’t hold a conversation….
Shouldn’t he just naturally give up and go find someone else to rob?
I’m not entirely sure this is the right idea always.
As I wrote here, there was this one foreign dude I got told about who got robbed by the police.
He got into a vehicle at the airport in Mexico City…
And supposedly a police vehicle pulled them over as he was heading to his hostel…
The cop noticed he was a foreigner and demanded to see his wallet.
Took it and done.
Now let’s think about it…
Let’s say this dude was just walking around alone and this happened to him…
Even if he pretended or legit did not know Spanish or English…
I feel the cop would feel enough liberty to do a search on the guy for any possessions.
Find the wallet and take it anyway.
Granted, maybe not all cops would?
But I think so.
If he feels the right to rob you, why not do a search on your person for any shit you got?
Or I don’t know – maybe I’m tripping.
I think it’s obvious what my opinion is here.
I just don’t see how pretending to not speak Spanish and stand up for yourself negotiating with the guy is going to help you.
If you speak his language, speak then!
Stand up for yourself.
And follow some of my tips that I provided above.
If you don’t have much on person, they can’t steal much shit anyhow.
What do I always carry on me?
Unless the cop happened to catch me walking out of an ATM machine where I pull money out for rent…
Which, in that case, I guess he’s getting a few hundred bucks…
Or unless he catches me going to the grocery store and I happen to have 50 to 75 bucks in person…
Though usually a good deal of that would be in my shoes or whatever until I got to the grocery store…
So unless it’s one of those two things…
I always never have shit on me.
As I wrote here, I never carry my phone on me ever.
And, when I am outside, I might have, at most, 25 bucks if I need to break a 500 peso bill.
Otherwise, if I’m not breaking a bill, you can bet I’ll have somewhere between 2.5 to 10 bucks at most.
So good fucking luck stealing from me, you corrupt cop you.
If you do that, you’re probably good.
When I got caught having sex in a bathroom in the DR, that’s exactly what I did.
I pulled out all my money – which wasn’t anything – and said “this is all I got.”
Again, I’m not an expert on bribing corrupt cops or anything.
I got very limited experience with this.
This is all my opinion obviously – yes, I think speaking Spanish is helpful in situations like this.
But do you have any opinions on this subject?
Drop them below in the comment section.
Enjoy this video of this gringo talking about getting robbed by the cops.
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Thanks for reading.