My Wife Has a Scare by Larco Mar

Over the years Peru has gotten a lot safer, and I still feel safer in Lima than I do in a city like Chicago, or even Minneapolis. But, like any bit city in the world, you have to keep your eyes open in Lima, and that fact was underscored for my wife and I the other day.

I’d just signed up for the Media Marathon in Larco Mar and some friends of mine were waiting to meet me.  I was a little early, so I suggested to my wife that we go and get a coffee, but she was ready to walk home and have a siesta or something.  My friend’s house is near Larco Mar, so I decided to head over there and my wife decided to head home, which was the other direction.  So we kissed goodbye and she headed off, pushing little Sofia before her in her stroller.
Well, no sooner had she gotten out of my sight did my wife notice a couple guys who were apparently following her.  My wife is no stranger to Lima, and fortunately she is always alert so she noticed this suspicious behavior right away.  Just to confirm her suspicions, she crossed the street hoping that the guys would take the hint and go away.  She kept on her way a little bit, but the next time she looked back she was discouraged to note that the guys following her had crossed the street as well.  In response, she crossed back, as did her pursuers.
This went on for a couple blocks as the two…what should I call them? assailants…continued on simply pacing her as she went on her way.  They didn’t advance or try to catch up with her, they just maintained a distance behind her.  Who knows, maybe they were waiting for her to go down a less traveled street, or for their accomplice to show up with the car?  It’s kind of scary to speculate.
Fortunately it was early in the day and sunny and there were plenty of people out and about.  Also, Zulma was travelling highly populated roads.  Still, these two followed her for about 10 blocks, always crossing the street when she crossed, and always maintaining their distance (like the impudent cowards that they are).
Eventually Zulma went into a Vivanda and found a policeman whom she told about the situation.  The policeman went outside and at the sight of him, the two pursuers sprinted off in opposite directions.
Weird and scary stuff.
Now, keep in mind, we weren’t in a dangerous place.  Larco Mar and the Malecon are about the nicest, safest spots in Lima for an afternoon walk (especially on a Saturday).  Who knows what these guys had in mind?  Perhaps they wanted to abduct our child for a ransom or something?  You’ve got to remember that there is a certain population in Peru for whom say…$1000…is worth killing over.
My wife did the right thing by staying on well traveled streets and finding a police officer as soon as possible, but I kind of wish she would have called me the moment she noticed the problem.
Really, in a situation like this, you don’t want to scare yourself by daydreaming about what the worst possible thing that could have happened was.  I mean, if you think like that every day, you’ll never get on an airplane, or drive a car, or leave the house for that matter.
But wow…if she had called me I would have come running and it would have gotten ugly.
People should know better than to mess with the parents of a child.  I mean, I’ve been in situations before when I’ve gotten my adrenaline up and an unbelievably strength comes to you.  But I can’t imagine what might happen if I saw some people trying to take or hurt my little girl.  I have no doubt whatsoever that I’d be able to kill people like that…but that’s just for starters.  What scares me is what I might do after that (because I don’t have any idea what that might be).
When you have a child, there’s no saving yourself for the return trip.  Your child is everything.  So if you happen to be a thief or something reading this, do yourself a favor and only go after tourists or the elderly or whatever.  Save yourself the miserable, painful, torturous death that comes from messing with dedicated parents.
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  1. Gordon Sutcliffe

    Hey Ben, well you may still have a point about Chicago. I don't really know US cities, although I once got lost late at night in a Washington suburb and asked a big black guy for directions to the Metro, he was very helpful, but when I read about Washington's murder rates after that, I kept wondering what might have happened!

    In Lima, nothing has happened to me yet either. I take a lot of precautions and I'm always aware of danger and that helps a lot. When I hear about muggings and thefts here there's often an element of naivety (what were you doing in the slums at that time of night? Or, of course your cash register is going to be robbed if you always leave the front of the shop empty while you're lying in your hammock at the back). But then again, if somebody sticks a gun in your face there's really not much you can do. You're not even safe in your car. I live in a reasonably nice part of the city in Miraflores, and witnessed a 4×4 pull up behind a car waiting for traffic lights, got out and threatened the driver with guns, made him get out, took all his valuables, then drove away. There's really nothing you can do when that kind of thing happens.

  2. Gordon Sutcliffe

    I've read a number of forum threads and articles on how the high levels of crime in Lima are an exaggerated myth and some people rolling out pedantic arguments on the invalidity of anecdotal evidence, but now that I've lived in Peru for over a year and a half I think I've formed a decent idea of what it's like. And it is NOT a myth.

    Seriously, in such a short time in this country I would say more than half of the people I know here have been the victim of a theft, assault, mugging, etc. Just last week in Miraflores, my wife was walking to a restaurant with two other girls and they were assaulted by two guys with a gun. By some miracle, while the two other girls had a pistol shoved in their face and were robbed, my wife was left alone.

    I could write a list of all these incidents that have happened to people I know in the last year and a half but it's enough to say that after living in various big cities including London, I have never come across such prolific crime in my life. Before coming to Lima, in a space of over 30 years I can count on one hand the number of incidents happening to people I know, while in Lima the number is in double digits in a tiny fraction of that time.

    So I see to hell with this lie that Lima is no worse than any other big city in the developed world. Sometimes it's just bloody obvious.

    Currently in the news in Peru is a congressman whose young daughter was shot and miraculously survived after an assault on their car. The congressman is now on the warpath and has made it his life goal to help clean up crime in the city. It's just a pity that these things need to happen to politicians before they pull their finger out of their behind.

    The good thing is that the criminals here are idiots. All brute force and no intelligence, so generally the police don't have a hard time nailing the criminals when they can be bothered (the latter being the key point).

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