- Health & Safety>
- The Sidewalks that Kill in Latin America
Let’s say you’re walking along some sidewalk in some city like Barranquilla, Colombia.
All around though, it’s a normal day.
Fairly hot given that it is Barranquilla.
Plenty of birds chirping perhaps.
And maybe even a cute gal on the side of the street selling empanadas who gives you a wink.
Along the way, you are checking your phone because maybe you got some text or something.
Then, in an instant, you fall into a hole that you didn’t notice.
Breaking your leg and unable to climb out.
You scream for help!
But then the day goes from sunny to rainy.
A storm hits Barranquilla in the worst moment.
With flash floods terrorizing the streets.
And much of the water slowly filling the hole you are trapped inside of.
You yell out louder “AYUDA! AYUDA!”
Then right before you are completely submerged in water, you get one last text from your girlfriend saying she’s breaking up with you.
The water kills you right then.
Welcome to Latin America.
Alright, jokes aside, it is a real issue when living in Latin America.
Granted, being a young guy in my 20s without kids, I don’t find it to be too much of an issue relatively speaking.
But it is one that gets brought up occasionally.
Mostly by older folks though who either have kids they have to stroll around or people who are older than that who maybe have leg problems or something.
Their body is dying slowly and can’t handle the bullshit infrastructure for sidewalks that we have down here.
In which the sidewalk in question isn’t very well developed.
Where it’s easy to trip on the cement if you aren’t paying attention.
Sometimes you have to almost hop onto the cement ahead of you as the level between one part of the sidewalk isn’t aligned with the part you are walking on.
If that makes sense?
And, once in a blue moon, you might find yourself almost falling down completely from one level of a sidewalk to the next.
We’ll get to an example of that soon.
And, all around, if you are physically disabled, then you are completely fucked.
It’s going to be a pain in the ass to get around.
And let’s not even bring up the metro stations in Mexico City that don’t always have proper infrastructure in place to help people in wheel chairs get up the stairs.
For example, I remember having to carry some old lady in a wheelchair with some stranger up a bunch of stairs around Metro Misterios if I remember right.
And, just a few days ago, I got back from the gym climbing up the stairs in Metro Copilco…
In that moment, I didn’t notice any elevators (not sure if they have one) and the escalator was completely broken.
So I’m not sure how disabled people are supposed to go up their 30 or more steps that I counted.
Still, there’s a funny few examples that come to mind when it comes to this little dilemma in Latin America.
Walking in Santo Domingo
The first example that comes to mind is when I was walking around Santo Domingo with a Dominican chick that I was hooking up with named Deborah.
Someone you can read more about here.
And, as we were walking along somewhere, we noticed some random white chick was having issues carrying her baby in the stroller.
Which, being honest, was a first.
Now that I think about it, I don’t think I see too many people using strollers to carry their babies in Latin America.
Unless maybe it’s in a nice mall or richer area?
I don’t know.
But, now that I think about, I do think it’s more common for women to just carry them in their arms.
Perhaps for the reason that the lady we saw realized as she was trying to use a stroller.
It happened to be some foreign woman who sounded a bit agitated speaking in some foreign language I didn’t recognize that wasn’t English or Spanish.
Maybe German or French.
Something European anyhow if I had to guess.
And the woman seemingly had difficulty using the stroller given all the bumps in the sidewalk or having to lift it onto another set of pavement that isn’t aligned with the sidewalk she was walking on.
Ultimately, we saw her simply take the stroller onto the side of the street where things are a little bit smoother.
And that’s not uncommon by the way…
People deciding that it’d be better to simply walk onto the street – sometimes even in the middle of the street – because it’s preferable to using the sidewalk.
We’ll get to an example of that soon enough.
The Difficulty of Being Disabled
As I said before, the metro stations in Mexico City are not always the most favorable to disabled people in wheelchairs and all.
Similarly, the sidewalks are not always good either.
Be it not having a smooth transition to help someone get off the sidewalk or to get onto the next one as they cross a street.
Other times, it could be that there is a smooth pavement made for people in wheelchairs to roll up onto but it’s blocked by a vehicle!
That’s another point about how drivers down here seemingly give less of a fuck about any pedestrians really.
Sometimes even seemingly trying to run us over!
At any rate, I remember actually some odd years ago when I was passing time in Asuncion, Paraguay.
And, being honest, the story isn’t really much to talk about because not much happened.
I was simply walking down the sidewalk with some other American guy named Matt as we were exiting some bar we checked out briefly.
Along the way, I remember noticing some dude in a wheelchair simply having a noticeably difficult moment getting around in his wheelchair before ultimately going onto the street like the foreign chick mentioned above.
Anyway, here’s a video also of someone bringing light to this issue for disabled people here in Mexico City around a Walmart.
My Own Experience in Pedregal de Santo Domingo
As I wrote in a recent article, I recently checked out a neighborhood I’ve seen before called Pedregal de Santo Domingo in Mexico City.
So I was basically apartment hunting in the neighborhood after visiting my gym and this is how I got inspired to write this article.
Compared to other neighborhoods, I will say that Pedregal does seem a little bit less friendly to pedestrians in general when it comes to sidewalks.
Simply put, it was like playing Mario when I was a kid.
Where you’d have to hop – literally hop – onto the next pavement that is set higher than the pavement you are walking on.
You’d have to do that or take a side step onto a lower pavement that is slightly higher than the one you are on before getting onto the bigger one.
If that makes sense?
I tried to explain it the best I could there…
Anyway, outside of that, I also noticed that the pavement in general just wasn’t as nicely put together.
More bumps in general.
Easier to trip over yourself.
Which, if you’ve lived in Latin America long enough, you’ll be more accustomed to not making those small trips.
Though we’re not always perfect!
In which, as I was walking to the gym that day, I actually almost fell some distance.
Where I’m walking along some pavement but checking my phone to get my camera ready to take some photos of apartment listings…
And, without noticing, I almost fell off the concrete I was walking on onto a lower pavement that surely would’ve hurt if I did fall.
Not break a bone necessarily but probably just hurt in general.
Maybe break my phone if I fell and it slips out of my hand or something.
Fortunately, I caught myself before falling and kept on walking.
Soon enough, I found myself literally walking along the street instead of the sidewalk.
More comfortable all around.
Just make sure to be around of your surroundings in case a vehicle is trying to inch past you or if you want to cross the street obviously.
Along my time there, I even noticed some streets that were narrow enough with shitty sidewalks and parked cars taking up a decent amount of the space on the street itself.
Like other folks on one particular street like that, I found myself literally just walking along the middle of the road.
Obviously, it wasn’t a busy road at all and I kept aware of any vehicles that might need to pass me.
Of which, if any did, they’d obviously honk their horn ahead of time also.
Though, given how bad drivers can be down here, that’s not something you always want to rely on.
Nor is it recommended you walk onto the middle of the road!
Don’t be crazy like me.
Got Any Experiences?
Anyway, as I said, it’s all around a relatively minor issue in Latin America assuming you are not:
- Old with arthritis in every bone of your body
- Physically disabled
- Have babies you need to stroll around.
Assuming none of the above is true, then it probably won’t be as big of an issue for you!
And that’s all I got to say.
Got any experiences yourself with this?
Drop them below in the comment section.
And follow my Twitter here.
Thanks for reading.