This is a regular feature column inspired stories that manifest “Mexican Grace.”
El Ojo is looking for more anecdotes that relate the many encounters, initiated by expats or locals, that exemplify the special forms of mutual giving and receiving that define the Mexican Grace that brought us to this unique paradise--and that keep us here.
A Different Kind of Mexican Crime Story
By Carol L. Bowman
This isn’t your usual crime story we’ve all become too accustomed to reading about, Mexico’s drug-related violence. No, this one involves seven Mexican men and a gringa (that would be me), a high-speed chase, and a twisted ironic finale that will make you . . . well, read on.
The setting is not a gritty border town, but by the beautiful shores of Lake Chapala, Mexico. It was Saturday. Riding the Chapala to Ajijic bus, this activity felt so familiar now. Too familiar, I suppose. My large tote carrying books to facilitate English Conversation class weighed heavy on my shoulder. Tucked beneath the tote was my cloth purse. I checked that both were still safely in place.
The moment I exited the bus, my shoulder’s load felt lighter. My purse, pesos, house keys, alarm system remote, wallet, and identification, all gone. I turned to claw at the bus door, but too late, it pulled away.
Frantic, I ran to the policeman directing the carretera traffic. I screeched, “Mi bolsa está en el autobus,” pointing to the disappearing red-and-white getaway vehicle.
The policeman (Mexican man #1) commandeered a taxi, slipped me into the backseat, and told the driver, “Catch that bus.” Off we flew. By now, I had forgiven this cop for stopping us for a questionable traffic violation three years ago. I told the taxi driver (Mexican man #2) I couldn’t pay him, as we were chasing my pesos. Not to worry, he had orders from the policeman. We weaved and darted and attempted to pass other cars. It mirrored a scene from a movie.
The taxi flanked a sharp U-turn across the highway. The bus, parked in front of a roadside cantina, appeared empty. I bolted from the taxi, scaled the bus steps, and searched seats, floors, and overhead compartments. My flurry slowed, my heart raced, my head throbbed. No purse. In these times, who could blame anyone who took the opportunity for extra pesos?
I searched the cantina for the bus driver (Mexican Man #3.) and tracked the poor guy down in the bathroom. He helped me search the bus again, before taking me back to Ajijic. Someone had my purse and everything therein. I couldn’t help but think, there was no need for the perp to break in my house. Just go to the address, disengage the alarm, enter with the keys and load up.
I arrived at my gate, breathless. An angel must have sent our gardener, Gabriel, (MM #4) because he never works on a Saturday, yet there he was. Noting my distress, Gabriel put down his rake and said “Calmate, Señora.” He reassured me that life is more important than material goods and keys. He begged me to have faith. He has eight children and problems aplenty, yet he was calming this hysterical gringa. Sure I had faith . . . that soon there would be a “robbery in progress.”
I called Aldo (MM #5), the locksmith, with my tale. Within twenty minutes he arrived, changed all the locks, and charged me a pittance for his services. I included a beer, a smile, and a hug with the pesos.
To settle this lost purse caper, the alarm system company had to replace my stolen remote and reprogram my husband’s device, rendering the missing one non-functional. They promised to send someone Monday morning. That meant 48 hours of vigilance. We refused to leave the house, stayed up all night and had the baseball bat ready.
Monday AM, Guillermo (MM #6), the alarm technician, arrived. Within minutes, he reprogrammed the remaining remote and provided me with a new one. As I let Guillermo out with the shiny new keys, I felt satisfied that the purse snatching ordeal was over. I reflected on how wonderful each person had been along the way. But someone took my purse and I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling of mistrust.
But wait, the story isn’t over. Remember the ironic twist? The phone rang. “Hola, my name is Ricardo,” the 7th Mexican man said. “I found your purse on the bus on Saturday. I was afraid that someone dishonest would steal it, so I took it to work with me. I work two jobs, in the kitchens at Los Telares and the Old Posada. I put in so many hours this past weekend, I didn’t have time to call you until now. Everything is safe.” He waited for a response. I was speechless.
This hard-working Mexican had restored my faith in the integrity of my adopted neighbors with one act of kindness and unparalleled honesty. I looked at the now useless keys when I picked up the purse. I found more than lost contents; I found trust. “The Magnificent Seven Mexican Men and the Gringa.” Now, that’s a Mexican crime story you will want to remember.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com