In any country around the world, it's possible that you, as an outsider, could attract problems if you show up and encounter someone who doesn't like or is suspicious of outsiders.
For example, there's this interesting video here by a man in the US who found himself getting shot at in some more rural area of the country.
Similarly, Latin America is no different as I hinted at before in this article here.
When you go into more rural areas, you can be more likely to be suspected of being up to no good.
For example, when I last dated my previous Mexican girlfriend, I remember visiting her family in a small town called Ixmiquilpan.
There was a random moment while waiting for the bus to take me back to Pachuca de Soto where some random local started questioning me for no reason.
Basic "what are you doing here?"
While sometimes such questioning can be just out of curiosity, it didn't feel that way and her dad stepped into the conversation to clarify things.
Was I in danger?
Well, the dude was some stereotypical 5'6 Mexican dude a bit on the skinny side so not really.
Unless he had a weapon or if he felt like lynching me with his buddies.
But it VERY unlikely would've led to that.
It wasn't THAT tense.
And so, when we discuss the Latin American suspicion of the outsider, it can obviously intensify when in more rural or small town areas just like rural or small town folks of any country would be more likely to be suspicious.
One detail you notice though is that rural folks down here are a little more liberal with lynching outsiders than folks back home on average.
And they seem to be more superstitious on average.
More humble and nice if they like you? That too!
But, like when you are in any relatively more rural area in any part of the world, you do need to be a little more respectful as to not step on any toes when you are an outsider.
And that also involves having a better cultural understanding of the area where location specific issues should be ideally understood so that you can better understand the locals if any issues come up and be more likely to avoid misunderstanding.
When I spent some months in Guatemala, one incident came to my attention that I didn't know about before.
The Foreigner Who Kidnaps Women & Children
Back when I lived in Guatemala for a few months, I often went hiking around mountains.
I quite enjoy physical activity and the natural scenery that comes with it.
And also, if I'm being honest, I didn't have much money on hand and it turned out to be a cheaper way to enjoy what Guatemala has as a young 18 or 19 year old that I was back then.
While hiking around with tourism agencies that took groups to random mountains or volcanoes, we would obviously often pass through VERY rural towns or villages.
There was one hiking trip in particular where we passed through what was basically a village to get to a mountain.
We climbed the mountain.
Then went back down.
Afterwards, we began waiting for a company van to pick us up.
While waiting, I got thirsty and wanted a quick drink.
There was a small store nearby and I went to buy some water.
With water in hand, I was curious too what the time was.
To end it quickly, I approached some random woman appeared young in her early 20s perhaps about the time.
But also my Spanish was kind shit in those days.
So I don't think she understood me well (despite how basic it is to ask the time but my gringo accent didn't help) and then some random dude nearby approached me.
She didn't understand me in the moment or seemed not to.
I asked her again.
And this other dude intervened.
I didn't understand him very well to be honest.
In fact, it almost sounded like he didn't speak Spanish.
I just remember that whatever he was saying sounded like shit I heard when I was in Chiapas as I wrote about here only a month or two before I was in Guatemala.
But, in hindsight, I don't remember how "Spanish" it was but only that it didn't sound like Spanish to me.
And the situation got "slightly tense."
It wasn't like I had a whole group of people ready to lynch me.
Only this dude who was increasingly saying shit to me and seemingly more aggravated while getting more tense and almost at the point of yelling.
That's when the Guatemalan tour guide stepped in.
He noticed some odd commotion going on and began speaking with the dude in what again did not sound like Spanish.
With him intervening, the conflict did subside.
And he motioned me to follow him back to the group some odd feet away with water bottle in hand and to wait again for the company van to pick us up.
I never asked him what the issue was and the issue was left at that.
Now, to be fair, I don't know for sure if I was actually at risk of being lynched on the suspicion of wanting to kidnap a woman or child in rural Guatemala.
I know my Guatemalan tour guide had to intervene.
I know the opinions of at least one expat who knows Guatemala better than I do from years ago.
But that's all I can.
Still, it's actually something that other foreigners have noticed as well in rural Guatemala.
There is this deep suspicion of "the foreigner" kidnapping women or children in rural Guatemala.
Now, to be fair, is this actually an issue in rural Guatemala?
Well, I'm sure women and children do get kidnapped like anywhere else in the world.
Some do probably.
Be it sex trafficking or whatever.
Though I can't say how much worse this issue is in such areas versus anywhere else.
What I can say is that, at least in Latin America beyond just Guatemala, you do notice over time more suspicion of "the outsider" in rural areas that have a higher indigenous population.
Not just rural areas.
But the more indigenous the population is usually translates to more xenophobia and suspicion.
Take this video here for example that is a bit funny to watch of a British man trying to enter a random village in Bolivia and being warned to stay out.
Now, to be fair, you could argue that it has something to do with Spanish colonialism.
Not putting a value judgement on it.
And I'm sure plenty of indigenous folks in rural areas can be cool too.
My first trip to Latin America ever, as you can read here, involved a trip to some indigenous community of rural Chiapas of Mexico (across the border of Guatemala) and most of the folks there seemed cool (granted, we had a trusted guide to take us into the area so that likely helped).
Regardless, you just need to be extra careful when in said communities.
There is a greater risk of linguistic or cultural misunderstanding that could lead to bad tensions when compared to being in a place with more locals who speak English (or Spanish actually), are less suspicious, etc.
You also have that rural "suspicion of the outsider" that you see in rural areas of any country that is not unique to Latin America or Guatemala (even if Guatemala might be worse on the issue but that's up for debate).
And, like I said, you might have a local context that you don't understand where, if you cross lines you don't know about, could lead to trouble.
Like talking to a random woman to ask for the time.
Or, in other contexts, I could see it where maybe some kids are playing soccer in the street and the ball is headed towards your direction.
You pick it up, try to be nice with the kids, ask them in your gringo accent if "this is your ball?" or whatever the hell else.
And, to the eyes of the suspicious rural local, maybe that sets off alarm bells.
Especially in a rural area known for having locals suspicious of the foreigner kidnapping women and children and where said area is no stranger to lynching said foreigners on such suspicion.
Or, as you can read in this article here about another country like Peru, perhaps some other issue not related to the kidnapping of children is at work that spirals into violence against you in said rural area (regardless of if said violence was justified or not).
At the end of the day, it's a tip to just be mindful of all of these nuances when in a more rural area of another country you are not native to.
So that, at the very least, you are not seen as a potential kidnapper of women and children.
Just recently, I was reminded of my experience in Guatemala when I attended some event held by another foreigner named Matt in Mexico City.
Other foreigners came along.
Some group event to meet people.
And, to my pleasant surprise, I met another foreigner who was a Peace Corps volunteer.
I always considered joining the Peace Corps but never got around to it (mostly because I was never sure if I wanted to spend 2 years in a rural area of 1,000 people where I'd have less women from Tinder to suck my dick).
But, as I wrote here, I do find a certain curiosity in rural areas of Latin America because I am from one myself in the US.
To see the "fly over states" of Latin America.
At any rate, he did his time in Guatemala for 2 years.
Out of curiosity, I asked him about his experience.
One thing led to another.
And he got talking about the suspicions and xenophobia of locals in such areas.
Specifically warning about villages in areas like Quiche and Huehuetenango where, as he reminded me, you got locals in said rural areas who are suspicious of outsiders wanting to kidnap women and children.
He ended up telling me of some foreigners he knew who had to be taken out of the area because of such suspicions in a rural area of Guatemala.
So it is what it is!
I'm not saying you shouldn't visit such areas.
You could turn out alright but obviously it's more for the gringo who likes adventure and wants to see Latin America "well below the surface" of what gringos normally see.
For me, I love doing that as I'm pretty bored with the usual tourist sights as I've seen a lot of them by now and like interacting with "more normal" folks of "normal" areas not for tourists.
Just take this example regarding the suspicion of kidnapping women and children and apply it to any rural area of Latin America or the world in general.
Know the linguistic, cultural or general location specific misunderstandings could cause problems and try to be prepared.
For those who want more, here's some videos I found on the topic of Latin Americans in numerous areas (not just Guatemala) lynching folks on the suspicion of some foreigner wanting to kidnap women & children.
For those who want written accounts of lynchings due to the same suspicion but in Guatemala, check out this article here with some key quotes below.
"La terrible práctica de los linchamientos ha vuelto a ensangrentar Guatemala. Un grupo de turistas japoneses que visitaba el sábado la localidad de Todos Santos Cuchumatán, al norte del país, fue atacado por unos 500 vecinos, indígenas de la etnia mam, que se abalanzaron contra ellos armados de piedras, palos y machetes. Un turista y el conductor de uno de los autocares perdieron la vida y otras cinco personas resultaron heridas.Según algunos testimonios, la turba gritaba que los visitantes estaban robando niños."
And check out this article here with some quotes below.
"El director del GAM, Mario Polanco, dijo a Efe que el fenómeno de los linchamientos surgió en Guatemala entre finales de 1992 y principios de 1993, supuestamente por el robo de niños que cometían extranjeros.
"Ser rubio o extranjero era un peligro en esa época", pero "la situación se ha generalizado", apuntó."
Also, here's another article I wrote on the topic of lynching in Latin America.
Have I heard or seen of any other incidents of lynching since then?
Well, in the neighborhood of where I live now in Mexico City called Pedregal de Santo Domingo, I have heard stories of attempted lynchings but never seen any attempts personally.
"Durante la madrugada de este lunes 29 de noviembre, se registró un intento de linchamiento en la colonia Pedregal Santo Domingo de la alcaldía Coyoacán de la Ciudad de México debido a que sorprendieron a un hombre robando al interior de una casa, por lo que fue necesaria la presencia de la policía capitalina para que se evitara una tragedia de dimensiones mayores."
But that's all I got to say.
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