- Health & Safety>
- The Caution Against Walking Outside With Your Phone in Latin America
Some odd days ago, I walked out of my apartment to the noise of a mini religious parade happening outside of my house in Pedregal de Santo Domingo.
I wrote more about this parade here with photos.
It was actually the third time that they stopped by my area.
Exact same parade.
With nothing else to do, I grabbed my phone, put on my shoes and followed them.
About 30 minutes later, we found ourselves at some random street where the music stopped and they were not moving forward.
But nobody was leaving the scene.
Then the music started again like 10 minutes later.
We marched to some random house and the end of the religious parade was coming.
While filming it all for Facebook to show family back home, I noticed a random homeless dude looking intensely at me.
It was some random dude who offered me drugs when the parade stopped and I refused.
But I was clearly was a foreigner in his eyes and I had a phone in hand recording this event.
A phone that is worth probably more than what he spends in two months or so to survive (assuming he has no rent and lives on the street).
And the dude couldn't be more obvious that he was thinking of robbing me.
Literally staring at me and my phone like I am an alien from another planet with something valuable.
He fucks off anyway without doing anything.
And life goes on.
Here in Latin America, the issue of the phone sometimes comes to your consciousness.
When I first started traveling down here years ago to other Latin American countries, I was much more conscious of not having my phone out in my hand or displaying it publicly.
In large part because some of the areas that I would visit were places that had more poverty and, more importantly, they had a feeling of "something could happen at any moment."
Especially some countries like Colombia or Venezuela.
In contrast, you did have other places like Buenos Aires where having your phone in hand didn't mean anything.
Probably nobody was going to steal from you or try to snatch it out of your hand.
It could happen. It does happen. But you feel safer in said areas.
For example, I remember being in a mall in a shit part of Barranquilla with a former girlfriend and I noticed some dude walking towards us that was eyeballing the living fuck out of my phone like a hungry zombie looking to steal shit so he can finally get a bite to eat.
I put my phone away as he got closer.
She mentioned something to me afterwards about the dude and how she saw the same thing.
It was pretty obvious that he was thinking of snatching it out of my hand.
Otherwise, when you hear of stories of phones being stolen, it usually involves some dude in a motorcycle stanching it out of someone's hand and driving off.
Or perhaps stealing from your backpack or pockets when you don't notice.
So on and so on.
When you go back home, you notice the difference.
For example, after I finished my time in South America so that I could finish college and then go to Mexico afterwards,I remember just walking around Ohio and seeing people again walking around with phones in hand.
Random college gals typing away on their laptops on the college campus and not paying too much attention to the laptops.
If the police were as shit in Ohio as they are in Latin America, one could easily just snatch this shit and run off.
Still, even when I was back in Colombia, I remember certain parts of the city being safe enough to display a laptop or a nicer phone.
Those places being nicer areas obviously like this really nice shopping mall in a nice part of town or the private university I studied at where there were guards limiting who can access the campus.
In such an environment, obviously you can whip your phone out.
Outside of said environment?
I honestly remember less local Latin Americans in said places with their phone out than the amount of people I see walking with their phone out in other places like Mexico City.
In Mexico City, it's not really an issue (though people do steal phones but often on buses or the metro as you can see here).
Still, for whatever reason, it seems like people here are more chill with phone in hand than how I remember them in a select few areas of Latin America that I knew before I began living in Mexico City.
But one reason for that might also be due to experience.
When you first begin traveling and living abroad, you do take more precautions because this is all new to you.
You might be more sensitive to not getting robbed or whatever.
Just because this is all new to you and you are taking it in as you begin this new life of living abroad.
With enough time abroad, you obviously become smarter in how to protect yourself but you also feel more confident in nobody stealing your shit.
It's not a new experience anymore being abroad and you might feel more comfortable with the phone in hand versus if you were 18 again traveling solo to Guatemala.
Or wherever really.
At any rate, it is true though that some places have that natural tension where plenty of the locals (including foreigners like yourself) feel less confident in having the phone in hand and not inside your pocket.
A small detail to life down here that I noticed early on but, over the years, is less noticeable than before.
Though, given how common phone theft is in Latin America as I wrote here, I still hesitate to take my nicer phone with me outside in public like I did with the religious parade I saw outside.
I do have a burner phone I take with me outside that is like 20 bucks or whatever in cost and doesn't have access to my private shit (email, social media, etc).
So it is what it is.
A small detail to life down here about the concern some have about "not flashing anything" or having nice phone in hand or whatever.
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Thanks for reading.