When you venture to a foreign land you never know about the local folks until you experience them first hand.
Having traveled previously to Panama, where they don’t much care for Americans because of the invasion of Panama by George Bush Sr., and Ecuador where, although friendly, they basically want your money more than you. There the theory is if you’ve got it they want it and they will take it.
With these not so pleasant experiences in mind I ventured off to Mexico, not expecting it to be much different. To my considerable surprise and joy the local Mexican folks were warm, friendly and happy. Their priorities were family, church, celebrating and they were not really much into material things. I fell in love with them from the first day here.
Fast forward more than a year. I had returned to Canada to get my temporal visa and come back to live out my life here in Mexico. Despite my then Mexican fiancée breaking up with me by text message the day we got back I was simply happy to be here surrounded by all these wonderful people.
That all changed recently when I was stupid enough to trust someone. When I came out of my favorite grocery store here, Super Lake, there was a young girl standing outside with a sign that read, “Please help me with some food for my baby” scrawled in English and then Spanish on a piece of cardboard. I gave her the few coins of change I had.
As I waited for my driver I stood behind her to have a smoke and I watched as person after person came out of the store totally ignoring her friendly “hello” and her sign. I could tell from their clothing and jewelry that they weren’t suffering financially so it annoyed me that they ignored her plight.
After far too much of this I introduced myself to her and asked her to come back in the store with me where I bought her baby food, bread and some chocolate to treat herself. Not a lot of money but I am a pensioner so money is tight. She was thrilled and helped me to load my groceries when my driver arrived. This is when I made my first mistake.
I felt sorry for her and gave her my business card. I told her if she ever found herself with no food for her baby to contact me and I would try to help.
Two days later she called me and asked me for 300 pesos towards her rent. I told her I was not in a position to just give her money. She thanked me and ended the call.
A few days later she called me again and we arranged to meet at Super Lake. She didn’t show up but she called me later to meet her. I told her I couldn’t come back but if she wanted to come to my place I would give her some money. Second mistake.
She showed up with a friend in tow, I assumed because it wasn’t smart for a girl to be alone in a man’s apartment. I got that. I fed them and when her friend wasn’t looking I gave her 200 pesos, telling her that this was the last help I could give her for at least a month.
We were all sitting out on my terrace chatting when she went back in and started cleaning my apartment. I told her she didn’t need to do that but she insisted. I assumed it was to thank me for the money. We said our goodbyes and they left.
A few minutes later her friend returned alone. I thought she might have forgotten something but when I let her in she pointed to the ring on my finger. I was confused but eventually understood she was referring to my other ring, the one with the diamonds that was on my bedside table. The one worth CAD $1,000. The one I had had for 10 years. Sure enough it was gone from my bedside table. Her “friend” had stolen it. That was the thanks I got for helping her.
As upset as I was that she had stolen my ring I was more impressed that her “friend” had come back to tell me the little thief had showed her my ring and said she was going to sell it. She didn’t have to come back, but she did. We called the police, who showed up fairly quickly and took all the details. The plan was to call my driver and meet the police in Chapala then go to the thief’s house and demand my ring back.
By the time we got there, the police station was closed. The new plan was to return in the morning, meet the police and go to her house. I was concerned that my ring would be sold by then so I asked her friend if she was willing to go to the house and confront the woman and she agreed.
When we got to the house she either wasn’t there or refused to open the door. I had her friend call on my driver’s phone so she wouldn’t recognize the number. Although she answered, she soon hung up on her.
The new plan was then to come back in the morning to go with the police. She talked to my driver and made arrangements for him to pick her up at eight o’clock in the morning, get me and then go to the police station. At least that’s what I understood. Third mistake.
The reason we were going to meet early was because the friend said she had to be at work at 10:00 and we didn’t want her to be late because she said she had only just started working at Super Lake. She said she worked from 10 until two. Fourth mistake.
As I waited anxiously for my driver to show up with her the next morning it got later and later. I called my driver to see where they were but he said he knew nothing about picking her up and he didn’t know where she lived.
The new plan was to go to Super Lake at 10:00 and see if she could go with us at two o’clock to the police and then her friend’s house. That was not what I wanted because I figured by then my ring would have been sold. Still, the friend was the only proof I had that she had stolen my ring because the police believed that she had been shown the ring and told that it was going to be sold.
When we got to Super Lake shortly after 10 I asked where Estafan was. I was told no person by that name worked there.
That was when I finally realized they had worked together. I still don’t understand why she came back to my apartment to tell me about the theft, but maybe she thought she could steal something else.
As I have shared this story with friends they have all told me how stupid I was to trust this girl. They said that lots of Mexicans pull these kinds of stunts. They told me to trust no one.
My ring is gone and I will never get it back. The thief will never be charged or go to jail. She will no doubt do this again and again. This experience has certainly tarnished my opinion of the locals. It’s also served to destroy my trust in people.
Live and learn.
The writer is originally from Canada and the developer of city portal sites in the Lake Chapala region of Jalisco, the first being AjijicToday.com.mx.