It’s a hot, sunny afternoon in the Colombian city of Barranquilla.
You find yourself new to the city enjoying everything that it has to offer.
Situated with an apartment in a nice area close to Buenavista Mall, you step outside as you are hungry with eyes on some Italian food at a restaurant nearby.
However, after only a few steps outside, you begin to notice hostility.
Some local Colombian chucks a brick towards you and hits you in the back of the head.
“Oye güero, que haces en mi país?” yells the stranger.
With limited Spanish, you aren’t quite sure what he is saying nor what caused his anger.
Soon enough, the whole neighborhood surrounds you.
And you plead with them in your best broken Spanish “oye amigos, oye! Soy un amigo! Solo quiero conocer tu lindo pais!”
Your words did not save you.
Instantly, the entire crowd descends upon you and beats you to death before dragging your bloody corpse to toss into the ocean.
They warned you, they did.
You just Too White for this area.
Too White for Latin America?
In all seriousness, it is an occasional expression that you hear other foreigners say.
Though, in my experience, those who often express it are those with either no or very limited experience in Latin America.
The expression being something along the lines of “they’ll fuck you up. You too white for that area.”
That, by being a very obvious white foreigner in a specific area of Latin America, you’ll attract bad attention.
Perhaps those looking to mug you, kidnap you or whatever else.
Not too long ago, I was reminded of this sentiment again when I saw this comment here.
And, to a degree, I agree with the sentiment but I also disagree with it
Let me break it down my main thoughts on the matter.
Paranoia of the Outside
While this doesn’t relate to the screenshot shown above, it does relate to all the folks I have heard who expressed a statement like the one above.
They almost always have never been outside the US or have very limited time outside the US that was decades ago to some place like Cancun or wherever.
And they come across as paranoid about being either one of the few white guys south of the border (which is bullshit because there's plenty of white looking folks down here, tourists or locals) OR they think that "the whole world hates Americans" and would kidnap them for being American.
This is also the same reason why you got some Americans who do travel abroad but they put Canadian flag sticks on their backpacks.
In short, they don’t know what it’s like to be the only white in a neighborhood or being an American abroad.
Nobody gives me shit for being American. Probably because they know that we Americans are the coolest motherfuckers on the planet.
And, as we'll get to, I never really have issues being white except in some circumstances.
Being the Only White Guy in Town
Now, to be fair, I wasn’t the only white guy in Barranquilla.
And trust me when I say that I often went to neighborhoods well beyond where Buenavista Mall is as my girlfriend at the time lived in a shithole neighborhood.
In my first night visiting that neighborhood, I must’ve looked very young and out of my league for the neighborhood because my taxi driver – as I’ve said in other articles – began giving me tips on how to stay safe in the area and just seem flabbergasted by why I would even choose to show up there.
To be fair, I was like 21 or whatever.
And, even in other areas like Santo Domingo of Mexico City where I live now, I see enough white locals where I don’t feel like a complete alien.
That’s one point anyway that folks don’t get that I’ll just briefly say now.
There’s a lot of people back home who think that no white locals exist down here and so being a white guy must make me an exotic animal down here.
At least in Mexico (and I’m talking rougher areas of Mexico City), there’s plenty of white passing locals where, even though I’m still in the racial minority, I don’t feel like I’m literally the only white dude in town.
I feel represented enough and not completely alien from the community.
My skin color doesn’t alienate me that much (granted, I don’t have blonde hair nor blue eyes. Maybe that’d change the situation).
Even in my ex’s neighborhood in Barranquilla or in most other areas of Latin America, there’s always been enough white locals for me to “pass” well enough (especially without having blonde hair nor blue eyes).
Personally, I don’t think white skin makes you stick out as much as behaving like you don’t belong.
The latter is much worse in my opinion.
If you conduct yourself without confidence, look like you’re a lost puppy who is new to the area or whatever else, you might attract worse attention.
Though, where I live now in Santo Domingo, I hesitate to even say that because, as I’ve written elsewhere, one of the reasons why I like the area (despite its reputation) is how nice the people are to me.
I feel like I fit in more here than I do in Roma Norte.
Which isn’t to say I feel like I’m Mexican but I just vibe better with the local people and the environment.
I’m more comfortable.
But, despite that, even if you do have a lost puppy vibe being down here, I don’t think people are going to be dicks to you.
“oh look at that white dude who looks like he’s lost. Haha let’s fuck him up.”
Sure, if you’re in the area at 2 AM on Saturday, you might attract wrong attention with the “lost puppy” look.
But during a typical afternoon?
Grow the fuck up.
Get your fucking pants on and stop acting like a scared little bitch.
Nothing is going to happen to you just because you’re white down here.
And I say that as someone who isn’t trying to nor have I ever pretended to be the toughest guy in the room.
I’m a normal sized and normal height dude and, despite being white, I don’t get shit for being here.
Nor did I get shit for being in certain parts of Barranquilla, Maracaibo, Cochabamba or wherever else.
It was fine.
Granted, maybe I’m lucky.
And, outside of your behavior or confidence or how you conduct yourself, luck helps too sometimes.
I’ve heard of other dudes – especially those with blonde hair and/or blue eyes – who have stories of muggings in one year that are more than what I got in 7 years.
Maybe the “extra whiteness” with blonde hair or blue eyes hurts but also it really is just sometimes bad luck.
Like you getting on a combi and two dudes get on with guns to rob everyone.
Had nothing to do with you being white.
Had everything to do with the Aztec gods shitting on you with bad luck.
Better luck next time.
Even Other Expats Are Ignorant
Now, going off a previous thing I said, I don’t want to make it seem like it’s just ignorant folks back home who have never been abroad who say stupid shit at the idea of traveling.
Sometimes you got other expats who do live down here that also are too chicken shit to ever leave beyond their mental borders of what not to cross.
For example, I remember reading months ago some online forum where they had a thread on “Mexico City.”
And there was one dude on there who claimed to be an expert of Mexico City and supposedly has been here for years.
Followed up with a statement of how every area outside of the usual for tourists – Roma Norte, Condesa, Polanco, etc – are shitholes or slums or some word like that.
Let me tell you – I wanted to dispose of this dude into a trashcan lit on fire by a parking lot.
Not literally. Don’t come at me, FBI.
But there is a certain irritation I have at foreigners who can’t imagine even stepping foot outside of the usual touristy areas.
I’m not saying you got to LIVE in Gustavo A. Madero but why not check it out?
I genuinely don’t get it.
So much in the city that is worth a visit is outside those areas and you just ignore it all?
You do you.
Pussy ass bitch.
And, when I read comments or hear them from other expats, it usually comes from some white expat who always had money and is just too scared to go outside of his comfort zone beyond the Disney Worlds of countries outside of the US.
And that’s really what it is.
You got those who are a step above those from back home who think coming down here a white person will fuck you up.
The irony though is that, despite traveling abroad themselves now, they primarily stick to the Disney Worlds of life abroad where you got all your touristy amenities with no curiosity to even know what areas outside of your “comfort” areas are.
Again, I’m not saying you need to stop living in Condesa. If you genuinely like living there, that’s great and I get it! Condesa is cool.
But you travel abroad and are still scared so irrationally?
Why not take that occasional trip outside of Condesa for a few hours or a day or two to see life outside it?
Really that scared that, as a white guy, you going to be so different away from the Fresa Whitmexicans that you’ll get hurt?
Pussy ass bitch.
Where it makes Sense
Now, having said all that, there are cases where the concern of "being the only white guy" in town might make sense when it comes to concerns for being fucked over.
For one, it's been my experience that areas with relatively few if any white locals tend to have locals who are more aggressive in fucking you over.
Areas that come to mind are, in my experience, regions of Latin America with a VERY heavy indigenous population where you just don't see any white locals on a typical day.
Places like that in my experience were Guatemala, Bolivia, etc.
Also, for obvious reasons, looking like a foreigner in a heavy foreigner/touristy area will involve encountering more folks trying to fuck you over also.
Though, in my experience in either case above, "fucking over" often means being given the "gringo price" when buying something.
Maybe rob you?
Perhaps by the police...
As said in this article, I've known gringos who were whiter than me (blonde hair and blue eyes look) that have had worse stories in months than what I've had in years.
And I've been living in rougher parts of Mexico City for a while now!
So maybe I'm just really lucky, know how to carry myself and/or not having blonde hair & blue eyes helps. Plus I speak Spanish.
Outside of all of that, there might be other issues that come with being literally "the only white guy" in town but none come to mind at the moment.
Quick Point: In most of Latin America that I've been to, us white folks aren't THAT rare (even in a city like Barranquilla where I saw a small but noticeable enough local white population).
Second, the idea of raising kids in an area of Latin America where white folks aren’t too common at all is also one of concern for me.
Think some city in Bolivia or Peru outside of Lima or wherever else.
While I wouldn’t mind personally living in those areas like Cochabamba as I found the people there very nice , the city very livable and I can handle myself, I do have reservations about raising a white-passing kid in an area where he’s basically the only white kid in school.
I’ve never had that experience myself and so maybe I’m like the folks who never left the US speculating on an experience that I can’t speak to in regards to how it really is.
Still, while I don’t mind the kid being white in a place like Mexico or Colombia where white folks are not in the majority (but still noticeable), I would have reservations about a place like Bolivia, Guatemala, Peru, etc.
Would Argentine be better where white is the majority?
But I do wonder, as an odd thought experiment, if it’s better for the kid in a country where whites are noticeable (and in the minority) but of higher status socioeconomically (especially with a foreign last name).
In Argentine, being white or having a foreign last name isn’t as special as in Mexico.
In Bolivia, I just have those pesky reservations about the family being the only white people around relatively speaking (even though some white Bolivians exist, perhaps more so in Santa Cruz but still).
In Mexico? Racial minority status but we’re not aliens from another planet (assuming the kid doesn’t have blonde hair or blue eyes which I don’t) and you get some benefits of being white with a foreign last name.
Anyway, getting back at topic, this is the only other point that comes to mind right now where I can see eye to eye with those worried about being white in Latin America or certain pockets of Latin America.
I have no worries about myself and can handle myself fine.
But, as with anyone else, you maybe do have more reservations when you think about having a family and ids.
There is a difference in reality between being the single man and one with a family.
Though, being honest, I do wonder if I’d be as comfortable being the white guy in a “poorer” area of La Paz in Bolivia versus Mexico City.
Would I stick out more and maybe not find it as easy to adjust to? I don’t know.
And probably many more differences – even with that one about being white in places like Bolivia – that, I’m being honest, I’m only speculating and can only imagine what it might be like.
And trust me in saying that I do think about it sometimes as I do contemplate my future down here as to what would be the best path for me going forward over the next 5 years.
Anything to Add?
At any rate, the broader point here is that I do genuinely find the comment of “my pasty ass would be a target in x area of Latin America” to be a little bit annoying.
Especially if it’s form someone who has never been down here or ever leaves touristy “Disney Land” areas of Latin America.
I just find the paranoia to be some weird ass shit that I genuinely don’t get.
I’ve spent plenty of time in areas that aren’t touristy with minimal white people and am fine.
Not getting mugged or shot at every day.
Just once every other day…
Still, like I said, I don’t blame anyone for choosing to live in the touristy areas or even not coming to Latin America.
We all live how we feel best comfortable living within our means.
It just comes across to me as ignorant to say that you’ll be roughed up for being white because that's not been my experience on a daily basis (though, like I said, folks even whiter than me with a more obvious outsider look might have it rougher).
Like maybe if you’re some princess limp dick motherfucker in a tootoo looking like a lost puppy asking everyone “a donde a a a a donde esta a a donde esta mi culo, amigx?!”
Sure, in that context, you might have problems.
But, even in Santo Domingo, people are friendly enough (assuming it’s not 2 AM Saturday) and you’ll get help if you’re lost.
In short, this is nothing more than a message to cool it with the paranoia about how “your pasty ass” will have problems outside touristy zones or in Latin America in general for those who have never been down here.
You’ll probably be OK.
Even though, to be fair, crime is higher in Santo Domingo but you got plenty of areas – like by Metro Refineria area – where it isn’t too touristy and also as safe as anywhere else.
Not to mention touristy areas also have those looking specifically for tourists – like homeless, corrupt cops, etc – that you don’t get as much outside of touristy areas.
Anyway, that’s enough of a ramble.
You get my point.
In some circumstances – like the ones I gave – I can get why concern about being the only white guy in town can be problematic but I think it’s overhyped in most of the contexts I’ve seen it used in by those who don’t know what they are talking about.
Anyway, that’s all I got to say.
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Enjoy this music I was listening to here as I wrote this out of boredom.
Oxxo Wave Music, bro.
Thanks for reading.