Whenever I told people I was going to Cuba, one of the first questions I heard was “how?” Clearly I was flying there! OK, not really what they were asking me, I get it. Although there are now direct flights from selected US airports to Cuba, my Mum and I chose to fly through Mexico City, spend a night there, see some sights and have a little adventure. Big mistake.
All our friends told us stories about a friend of a friend who went there and came back minus one kidney. “Don’t go, you’ll be mugged” they said. “Don’t worry” Mum and I told them all, “we will be fine.”
We landed in Mexico City reasonably early in the morning so that we would have a full day of touristing before catching the first flight out the next morning to Cuba. Whilst freshening up at the hotel I asked Mum “are you really going to wear all your jewellery?” Around her neck she had two flashy gold chains with charms on them, a huge flag for pick-pocketers:
LOOK AT ME, PERFECT CANDIDATE
Her response: “Sure! No problems, I will be fine.”
And it was fine for the next 4 hours while we walked around downtown Mexico City. All throughout the city mall were groups of police officers, on the prowl for suspicious activity. These cops meant business too; they were all carrying fierce weaponry. (It was only after the fact when I was doing some research that I found out how corrupt the cops in Mexico City are.) We meandered around looking at churches, shops and generally soaking up the atmosphere. Our walk took us down a street that looked like any other, bustling full of locals and tourists, only no cops.
Within the blink of an eye my Mum, who was casually walking next to me came to a complete halt and was screaming her lungs out. All I could think was what on earth just happened?! Everyone was turning around and staring at us. “I have been mugged!” she started to make sense, “that guy just took my necklaces!”
There were people all around us on the street, but no one was helping us; they just stood there and watched. One man who was standing out the front of his shop offered his pitiful advice. “Well he is gone now, keep walking mama.”
As it turns out a guy had come speeding towards us on a pushbike, unbeknownst to me and as he passed Mum he grabbed at her necklaces. The exact same gold necklaces I had asked her about not even 4 hours earlier.
I looked down to see Mum scrambling on the floors, looking for all her gold charms she had collected around the world. Like the champion she is, she found every last one. The thief only made off with a broken gold necklace and some of our dignity. We were left shaking in our boots, talk about an adrenalin rush! Though it did not take us long to compose ourselves, not even two minutes later we were already making jokes about it and finding the nearest bar to practice our rum drinking skills for Cuba. Needless to say what jewellery was left on us, we tucked away out of sight for the rest of our time in Mexico City.
When Mum was screaming that she had been mugged, my world came to a complete stop, like in the Matrix when Morpheus tells the construct to freeze the crowded city scene. How did we end up in this situation? I have spent some time reflecting on it and have realised a few things we should have done a little differently. Here is what I recommend so hopefully the same doesn’t happen to you.
- Do not wear jewellery – it’s a huge sign that you have money; it is hanging around your neck!
- Be conscious of your surroundings – we should have realised that the street we were on no longer had police presence. Also be conscious of the people around you. Instead of being away with the fairies, I should have noticed there was a guy on a pushie speeding towards us.
- Try not to look like a tourist, even though you will – My mum and I stood out like a sore thumb. Two Caucasian blondes walking down the street. To top it off we were dressed like tourists. Even though it was hot in Mexico City, everyone else wore jeans and jackets. What did I wear? Short shorts and a singlet (tank top), fool! Look at what the locals are wearing and if you have something similar, go for it.
Mexico City does have some wonderful historic sites to visit, and I would not like to discourage anyone from going, just be cautions, street smart – and take off your jewellery! Following that, I am sure you will be fine.