Friday, 21 March 2008

Fear and Loathing in Todos Santos


I’ve written before about the paradox that, if you think you are escaping the issues of the world when you come to Todos Santos, you’ll find that they’ve come along with you, just to keep you company. One reason that people come to this little town is that they think they can leave behind all the crime that bedevils the urban complexes of America (or Canada). So they buy an ocean view lot in the desirable desert areas north of town where nary a Mexican can be seen (except the gardeners and maids that they have to drive in), build the cosy little 2500 sq ft. seaside cottage of their dreams, furnish it with high-end fittings and sleek designer Indonesian furniture, and then expect to live a life of peaceful bucolic pleasure.

Unfortunately, life in Todos Santos is not always so magical. This year there have been several break-ins reported, mostly north of town in the areas where most Gringos live.

This news has caused some quite different reactions amongst the ex-pat community. One common reaction is indignation and astonishment that this has happened. “But this was always such a nice town” many bemoan, “We never needed to (and shouldn’t have to) lock our doors”. It seems somehow inconceivable to them that Todos Santos should experience crime. Cabo, yes, but what else would you expect in such an uncouth den of iniquity.

Quiet reflection, however, might reveal that there is no reason why Todos Santos shouldn’t experience many of the same issues as any other place. Television, the internet, improved physical access to and from the US and other parts of Mexico, and the huge influx of development and people means that Todos Santos is no longer living in an isolated bubble.

In addition, rational thought might suggest that placing luxurious homes close to a town where the majority of people are still poor might just be an overwhelming temptation to those who are less fortunate. Just imagine that you are a local Mexican youth who sees (relatively) incredible wealth that is beyond their practical reach, and that desired possessions sit in houses that are essentially in the middle of nowhere, and are often vacant. It is, perhaps, incredible that the robbery problems are not more endemic.

It is not as if the “good old days” really were so perfect either. According to friends who have had a home here for almost 2 decades, there have always been some robberies. There was no internet newsletter to broadcast the news, and the “valuables” in the homes might not have been as financially valuable as those available to miscreants now. The difficulty of replacing stolen items was, however, probably greater.

So, rationally, we shouldn’t be surprised that there are robberies here, just as everywhere. That includes my small, sleepy hometown of Comox, British Columbia, where there has been a spate of repeated robberies in the “safe” retirement complexes that have sprung up over the Valley.

Anyone who has been robbed is certainly entitled to feelings of outrage at the violation of their private space and possessions. The recent reports in Todos Santos have, however, sparked such fear and outrage I wonder if the sense of violation runs deeper. I think the violation they are expressing may also relate to being forced to awake from a pleasant dream, in which it is possible to find a “Paradise” where the cares of the world have no place.

Some people here (mostly who have not experienced the robberies directly) have had a quite different reaction. They plead publicly for others to stop complaining, to only proclaim the positive side of life here, and to let them relax and enjoy the delights of Todos Santos. In their positivity, they are perhaps expressing a loathing of the realities of modern life. In essence, they would like to dream the magic a little longer. And what better place to do that than in this little Pueblo Magico?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I guess I am one of those people that built a home North of town though I do not fit the mold you cast. Our house is modest and furnished with rustic furniture. I see many many Mexicans each day I am there. I guess your post raised my interest as I was one of those people who were "robbed" and I was not as angry as I was disappointed. Your story seems to validate the thought that because somebody has less than you then one should expect them to take something and be ok with it. We chose this area in part because the houses are not all barred up. I think that the robberies are big news because the majority of the townspeople are shocked and that says alot about the town we chose.

Thank you for the thought provoking story.

O