This is a sort of morbid post, one of several I’ve written of late. I’ve thought hard as to how to write this, and indeed whether to write it at all, because I don’t want to give off the wrong impression, or be misinterpreted. But as I’ve mentioned before I write primarily for me, about my life in Mexico and what I see. And today’s subject is something I have, unfortunately seen too much of.
It’s also a continuation of a forum topic, which I decided to leave alone at the time, largely because I felt it would be impossible to argue my point without coming across as a bit of an ‘El Grafico’ type of person, which wasn’t the intention. El Grafico is a tabloid which specialises in printing mangled, dead bodies. The photographs are always close enough to see some cranial detail, but with enough angle to capture the pool of blood next to the corpse. It’s never a pleasant walk past a newspaper stand in the morning.
The tabloids both here and abroad would have you believe that Mexico is awash with blood, and that were you to come here either to live or to holiday, your head will be severed by a machete wielding addict the moment you set foot outside your lodgings. Which is so far from the truth that the mind boggles.
But I often find myself disagreeing with my fellow gringos on the subject of safety. It’s not that I don’t believe that Mexico City is safe enough to visit. It is. You’d be really unlucky to be a victim of a serious crime. But your perception of safety will probably depend upon where you come from. Me, I’m a Londoner. And for me, Mexico City offers far more possibilities as far as being robbed go. And yet it’s a much safer place as far as physical assault is concerned. This is my perception anyway.
But the recent topic was centered not on safety with regards to crime, but on death in general. I don’t live in what would be considered a bad part of town, although there is, it has to be said overlap. Not all criminals want to shit on their own doorstep. But I do seem to have seen a lot of dead bodies. Or at least apparently dead bodies. A total of eight, until last night. Now a total of nine. Three a year. Not murdered dead bodies – none of those. Accidental deaths.
Prior to coming to Mexico I’d only seen a few dead bodies. I could go and find some statistics, and make comparisons, but stats are often a lie with a ribbon on. Other teachers here seem to have mixed experiences, with many never seeing anything more than a stray dog who’d wandered into the path of a car. What do I put it down to? Well I can only guess. I don’t live very centrally, where the road system is more grid like and less confusing. Yesterday’s accident happened across from my house on a fast road with an intersection commonly used for dodgy U Turns.
But I’m more inclined to put it down to Mexico’s ‘Voluntary’ code of conduct. Drink driving, speeding, reversing down one way streets the wrong way, jumping red lights et al are all against the law. But with a lack of real enforcement of these laws, obedience does seem to be a voluntary activity. And of course there are consequences. Particularly so for the motorcyclists who choose not to wear crash helmets – they account for three bodies I’ve seen. Life can seem cheap sometimes.
Is this putting you off Mexico? I hope not. This is life and it happens everywhere, whether you bear witness to it or not. Maybe I’ve just been unlucky here. But my recommendations as far as road safety go in a similar vein as to my recommendations for avoiding crime. Don’t wander through bad areas at night selling drugs. Don’t drive at 100mph on dark streets. Don’t stroll down dodgy looking alleys with cameras dripping off you. Don’t drink drive. Be aware of your surroundings. Wear your seat belt. Don’t be stupid. Are you getting the picture? Be as sensible as you would always be, anywhere else, and I’m sure you’ll be fine.
I took the photo below last night of the accident. Why? I wanted to. I had my camera with me and I could have joined the many others who had gathered round, flashs popping. Got a real good shot. But that wasn’t what I wanted. I took a photo with my cell phone, discreetly, from a distance. There’s very little detail. Which is a good thing. Offers from El Grafico for my photography isn’t something I want.
Perhaps the one thing to be taken away from the post, which was a thought with me the moment I saw the long lump covered in a white sheet, was that life is precious. It could all be over tomorrow. How you take that is ultimately up to you. Brooding on the pointlessness and sadness of it all isn’t for me. Enjoying today, valuing what you have, and giving thanks you get to have another tomorrow, on the other hand, is exactly how I take it. Sometimes, the worst things in life are the best reminders of what life is really about.