- “It’s Dangerous Up There in the High Neighborhoods”
Back when I was living by Cuatro Caminos area of Mexico City, I was getting ready to move to another Mexican city called Pachuca de Soto.
It’s about an hour and a half away from Mexico City more or less if I remember right.
It’s been a while since I’ve been there.
Anyway, my girlfriend at the time happened to be from that part of Mexico (Hidalgo state) and we were going to live in that city.
While researching what part of Pachuca to live in, I was checking out apartments and she’d wave away certain options based on where they were located.
Knowing Pachuca better than I did at the time, she knew which areas would be too far away from where she lived or were in dangerous areas.
One option in particular looked very good!
It was, if I remember right, some furnished house that looked fairly spacious for about 4,000 pesos or 200 bucks per month.
It had like two bedrooms also and two bathrooms.
Though I wouldn’t need two bedrooms since she was going to live in a house her parents owned but didn’t live and we didn’t have kids…
It still looked all around like a good option.
But, like other options, she waved it away.
And I was getting a little bit annoyed because I genuinely didn’t understand why it’s not a good option.
After all, look at the cheap price and how much it has to offer!
And she said something about how “it’s not safe up there.”
Meaning “in the higher neighborhoods above the city center.”
In which, according to her, some of the houses or apartments you see higher up in the city are not very safe.
That’s where you have more criminals and violence in general compared to the rest of the city.
Anyhow, I eventually found a good one bedroom apartment for about 250 bucks instead at the city center.
And, with enough time, I did venture into some of the “higher up” neighborhoods of Pachuca just to see what they were like briefly.
And yeah, they did look more sketchy.
But, aside from the story about finding a place to live in Pachuca, there’s a possible lesson or observation that might serve some people well.
Which is that, at least from my impression as I think about it now, it does seem like there’s a common trend here in Latin America.
In which neighborhoods that are “higher up there” are generally regarded as more dangerous or insecure.
It’s a weird thing to think about because I’m from a small town in Iowa so it’s never been part of my life back home.
In which neighborhoods “higher up” are usually regarded as more dangerous.
Iowa, being as flat as it is, also doesn’t have really “neighborhoods up there.”
It has bad areas but not “up there.”
In which the elevation is somehow a possible indication of an area being dangerous.
And, to be fair, I’m not entirely sure this is true of everywhere in Latin America either.
After all, you have parts of Latin America that are relatively flatter like parts of Argentina for example.
And, even in areas with more varied elevation levels, you obviously still have parts that are not too flat but still regarded as dangerous anyhow.
Regardless, it’s an observation that I’ve noticed but got reminded of again when I was reading this article here titled “Peruvian Customer Service, Documented.”
In which the author has to get some official documents provided regarding his children and marriage in Peru.
And there’s this passage here that I read which reminded me of the topic at hand today.
“The downtown RENIEC office is just on the edge of where historic city center meets the thieves’ paradise of Barrios Altos. It’s people on top of people coming and going from the informal shopping malls where armed robberies are reported in the news fairly often.”
Though I’ve never been to the Peruvian city of Lima, I simply assumed by the name “Barrios Altos” that the neighborhood must be higher up relative to other neighborhoods.
So when I read that passage, it got me thinking also of other areas regarded as “more dangerous” that happen to be higher up.
Outside of Pachuca, another experience I have with this is in the city of La Paz, Bolivia.
In which there is a relatively more dangerous area called “El Alto.”
You can see a video of “El Alto” here in which a British tourist decides to check out what locals consider to be “dangerous streets” of this area in Bolivia.
And I’ve been there as well actually.
When I lived in another Bolivian city called Cochabamba, I would often take trips to other cities in Bolivia for tourism purposes.
Quite often, I would have to travel to La Paz since there’s quite a few nice touristy attractions near that city from what I remember.
And, during one of my visits, I checked out “El Alto” very briefly during the afternoon.
Was it dangerous?
Well, being honest, my experience kinda resembled what you saw in the video posted above.
Nothing happened to me.
Actually, no local even advised that I leave the area or tell me how “dangerous” it was.
Truthfully, nothing happened.
It wasn’t remarkable in anyway or worth writing about really.
Did it look lesser developed or poorer compared to other parts of La Paz?
I wouldn’t visit El Alto again personally but that’s because it really didn’t seem like an interesting place to live.
Of course, during the night time, I’m sure it’s a little more dangerous than during the afternoon hours when I checked it out very briefly.
El Calafate, Argentina
Finally, there's one other area of Latin America where the lesson here might be applicable but I'm not entirely sure.
It's a small city in Argentina called El Calafate.
It has plenty of tourism value for those who want to see ice glaciers and check out more broadly Patagonia in Argentina.
Anyway, I do remember the city as a whole looking relatively quite nice.
Very livable it seemed as a possible place to raise a family.
Still, sometimes I like to venture away from the tourism areas to see what else is out there while traveling.
In doing so, I came across a part of Calafate that did seem "up there" or higher in elevation than the rest of the city.
Now, to be fair, I don't think the elevation difference was that noticeable.
Nor do I know Calafate that well because I was only there briefly.
So someone who knows the city better than I do should throw in their 2 cents if they like.
But it was my impression nonetheless that the part of the city a little bit "up there" seemed relatively more dangerous or at least a lot sketchier looking than the rest of the city.
A lot poorer in many regards.
Wrapping it Up
And that’s the topic.
Not very complicated is it, really?
Nor can I explain why it seems like “neighborhoods higher up” are more dangerous.
It’s really all just a very simple observation that I got thinking about today.
As I said, being from a small town, I never noticed this back home.
So I have little idea as to why it seems to be a trend for more dangerous areas to sometimes be located higher up.
Probably has something to do with maybe more investment, jobs, development and all being focused in other areas that make more sense.
Perhaps maybe it’s harder to develop an area more nicely when it’s located in a higher elevation?
Or whatever really.
That’s all my guess.
Just some minor observations.
Anyway, if you have any comments or observations yourself on this small topic, then drop them below in the comment section.
And follow my Twitter here.
Thanks for reading.
The reason is the rich and middle class don’t want to climb up and down a steep incline to-and-from their home so the migrant workers (this is true of Peru) who couldn’t afford to live on the flat of the land in a city like Lima found that the only parts of the city available were the higher more mountainous part of the city such as Barrios Altos – they’re not dangerous because they’re high up but because they’re high up, none of the pitucos wanted build their houses there and that was the only parts left for the poor to build their houses.
It is the same with the favelas in Rio, same in Medellin – not so much in Buenos Aires because that is mostly flat around there anyway but Lima for sure. I suppose depending on the geology of the city in question will depend if the slums/favelas are up a hill or not.