Introducing Isabel, our first Spanish teacher. We have so much more to learn about who sweet and gentle Isabel is and look forward to getting to know her better over the next four month. I thought, however, that it would be neat to share a difficult experience she recently went through, as it gave me a chance to glean a bit of insight into the life of people who live and work hard here in Playa.
Isabel woke up on Monday morning, ready to start her job. As she sat up in bed, she realized something was not right. Moments later, she understood why. Her husband asked if she had moved his phone, which had been charging overnight. Sorry, but no. Next, her daughter asked the very same question. Slowly they all realized they had been robbed!
As they pondered over how the theft had transpired, it dawned on Isabel that, in her own words, it was all her fault! “Es mia culpa.” I didn’t understand what she meant at first, but she began to explain. This was the fourth, not first, not second, but fourth time a burglar had entered their home.
The first time, the thief had stolen many items during the afternoon, including jewelry her father had gifted her as a child. The jewelry was probably the most difficult to have lost, not because of the value alone, but because they were sentimental reminders of her father. What added insult to injury, however, is that the thief had also helped himself to the dinner she had painstakingly made for her family that afternoon. He had eaten it all! “Yo estaba muy enojada.” I was very angry!
The second and third time, the thieves entered her property in the middle of the day as well, but both times, she and her dog were able to scare each of them away. (Apparently her dog is a very loud barker). During one of the burglaries, she witnessed the robber scaling a ladder he had brought with him. This…in the middle of the day! Wow!
But this last incident is the one which incited the most fear…because it happened during the middle of the night, while they were all home sleeping. Temperatures were really high the evening before, and for the first time, Isabel and her husband decided to sleep with the windows open, to let in some fresh air. They did not have the luxury of air conditioning. Being upstairs, they did not think it was possible for an intruder to enter their home at that level, but unfortunately, they were wrong.
The trespasser got up on the roof and let himself in through the window in their bedroom. The items he stole were in the very rooms she and her husband were sleeping in as well as the one her daughter occupied. They didn’t hear a thing. The thief got away with two of three cell phones, the husband’s credit cards and cash (found in the pockets of the pants he had stolen and then discarded outside), and a few other things.
Isabel wasn’t concerned about their things at all. Yes, it was sad they had lost these items and now had to replace them, but she was so much more thankful that no one had been hurt! These are only things, she said, “cosas”. We have our lives.
During our next lesson on Wednesday, I inquired as to how Isabel was doing. She said it was difficult to accept the fact that someone had invaded their privacy, had been in the rooms with each one of them as they slept. There was fear. “Poco a poco,” she stated, little by little, we’ll get over it.
“Why do you think theft is such a problem here?” I asked. I was still a bit shocked that she had had four incidents! Here are her well thought out answers:
1. There are many people in Playa who have not had the opportunity to be educated at a higher level.
2. Additionally, even the “policia” rarely have a higher education.
3. As a result of numbers 1 and 2, salaries are very low.
4. Many people also work difficult shifts. For example, there are jobs that require 24 hours on, then 24 hours off…leading to large periods of time where people are not occupied with productive work.
5. Many policemen are corrupt. Not all, but many. If they catch the offenders, often they will negotiate their freedom for a portion of the “goods” or money.
6. The cost of living in Playa del Carmen can be very expensive, even for the locals. Given number 3, that salaries are low, this leaves many people needing more than they have, and do what they feel they have to in order to survive.
7. And her final words…lack of education, much poverty, and lack of religion contribute greatly to the high rate of theft here.
Thank you, Isabel, for being willing to share this story with all of us.