10 Years of Blog Archive

Friday, April 10, 2015

Are Gringos Too Trusting When Living Abroad?

About the latest gringo murder: does it really matter “why” it happened or “how” it happened? We can speculate and wonder all we want but we will never get the real story because the man is dead. Whether it was what some are calling, “a crime of passion” or “a crime of greed”, it did happen and hopefully we can all learn from it in some way, even if it is just one small thing like, “not giving out our keys” to people we really do not know.  Or “not opening our house gate” to strangers or to someone who is obviously intoxicated”.

What really matters is how newcomers behave in a foreign land.  For some reason we believe that we can trust everyone in this new land we have embarked ourselves on.  What is truly important is the ROOT CAUSE of why gringos are even targeted in crimes, whether they are a simple purse snatching or murder.  In almost every instance when something bad happens to a gringo, sadly, it appears the CAUSE of such crime is something the gringo is doing or not doing.

Should we trust a foreign person we have only known for a few months? Should we give out the keys to our home just because someone presents themselves well the first couple of times we meet with them? First impressions can be ambiguous because well, we really don’t know somebody with just a few meetings, and sometimes with numerous meetings.

When we are unaware or off our guard because of the feeling of being in a advertised “paradise” and we behave in any way that is different from the standard norm of that new culture and society we are living in then we are much more likely to be taken advantage of, and sometimes by the most unlikely of people—people we know!  We have to remember that in a Latin American setting, a gringo is a target from the get-go, without ever having to do a darn thing.

Maybe you think we’re trying to make Latin American countries appear more dangerous than they really are, but that is not our intention at all. Cuenca is quite a safe city now as they have taken strides to man more police throughout the city as well as being much more proactive and that is a good thing, especially for a tourist city. But like we have stated dozens of times before there is a certain way newcomers should behave in the new land they are in. 

Read the comments below from some folks who are considering Ecuador their new retirement home; they were left on our YT Channel.

“Electrified fence around entire property -- Why? Why are so many houses behind tall walls and ugly fences? Is there a crime problem here? It reminds me of East Los Angeles.?”

Why all the ugly tall walls and electric fences? Read this article we wrote three years ago and it will fully answer your questions. BTW, Cuenca is probably safer than east Los Angeles.

And here’s what another commenter had to say.

If the neighborhood is so good, what is the reason for an electric fence and whole house alarm system? That sounds like protection to me!!?

Yep, that’s right. This is how it is done here. Do you want to have the only house without a tall cement or gated wall and whole house alarm? You’ll be taking a risk every time you leave your home unoccupied, and only for a few hours!

The commenter’s sound like they have never traveled outside of the U.S, not even to Mexico; btw, Mexico is not any different than Cuenca. Once you dare to venture away from the beaten path of the resort and into a Mexican barrio, you’ll see once again, the ugly tall walls, electric fences, and army men standing everywhere with sawed off shot guns.

Frank and I ventured outside of a Mexican resort once; we’ve always been curious to know what the “real” Mexico is like and so we rented a jeep and traveled outside of the pretty and safe resort in Manzanillo, Mexico and drove hundreds of miles to an inner city and it was quite a shock. In fact, Cuenca and Quito are both mild compared to the things we saw in this town. We would never do that now but we were young, only in our late 20’s and didn’t know any better, but Mexico was safer then. Anyhow, we got an eyeful, it was nothing short of shocking.  To reiterate, it is nothing like being safely snuggled within the beautiful resort compounds that most people stay in when vacationing in Mexico.

We’re saying all this to say that if you don’t know why Cuenca’s barrios have tall walls around the homes, electric fences and whole house alarms then you are not prepared emotionally or mentally to come here.  We have met folks who became city-shocked because of the tall walls and cops standing around with machine guns even though in front of a bank. This is what it’s like here.  People who do not understand how crime (or safety) works here, need to do some studying before coming, that’s all we’re saying. If you live in a Cuenca barrio and your house is not protected by tall gates and walls, and house alarm your house will become a target and it will get broken into.

If we travel and move to a Latin American culture, how we carry ourselves, and how we behave, and our trust level will all be at stake because we’re the gringo; the minority; the guy or gal or couple that lives in that house over there!

If we behave too trusting we find that we’ll have a lot of local friendships. But are they really your friends? In the instance with the latest gringo murder, the local man who stabbed him 30 times was not his friend even though the victim befriended him and thought he was his friend. The local was obviously up to NO-GOOD from the first meeting once he saw, 1. How the gringo trusted him and 2.  Observed the gringo’s vulnerabilities. (Note: he probably doesn't get trusted like that by the local people.)

Should we move abroad and NOT pay attention to our radar flags (like we would back home) and something bad happens to us? Or, should we move abroad and adapt to our new surroundings, keeping our radar flags aware by not becoming the next victim of crime in town. It’s up to us to be safe and to stay safe no matter where in the world we live.

IF you liked this article, we think you'll also like these too.

How Not to Be a Target of Crime in Ecuador 
How Unsafe is Cuenca Ecuador Compared to NYC in the 1970's?

We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy in Cuenca Ecuador! Enjoy the Discover Cuenca Ecuador blog!

1 comment:

  1. Very good advice. When I lived in Cuenca with my Cuencano husband his own old friends and even family often tried, and sometimes succeeded in taking advantage of our kindness or trust. One was a lawyer, another a doctor, another a business owner: people one normally would trust and especially if they were related or childhood friends. As you said Gringoes are targets.

    I speak Spanish, never wore jewelry or flaunted cash. Even in my late 50's I was often asked when my baby was due as I always wore a fanny pack under a large tee shirt, rather than carry a purse!

    Consequently I was never robbed although I frequently shopped and walked about alone before I had a car. After I acquired a car I always kept the doors locked and windows up. The car was often keyed by envious citizens.

    Once you recognize that it is simply a fact of life when the rich and the poor collide, it is not frightening but rather common sense way to conduct yourself. Remember that even the poorest gringo is a millionaire compared to many of the people you meet.


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