South American Disease

Peru used to be the larceny capital in the world, after Colombia, of course.  I used to walk down the streets of Lima zigzag, just so that if I saw someone else doing the same, I’d know something’s wrong.  I’d walk with a fistful of coins in my hand, just in case I had to take a swing at someone, there’d be some weight behind my punch.  As if it weren’t bad enough that a hundred bucks would be a bag-full of those god-forsaken intis that passed for currency during the first Garcia regime, then you’d have to walk through a den of thieves with them.  Garcia told the Gringos to fuck off, so why shouldn’t everyone else?  While standing at the edge of a crowd in the Plaza San Martin, a thief riddled through my shoulder-bag so fast that if you’d stopped the video at the point I realized I’d been hit, I probably wouldn’t have been able to pick the guy out of the crowd.  He went for the main compartment and settled for a side one all in the space of a few seconds, without getting anything.  That leather bag seemed to attract them.  I could just feel eyes casing it out constantly, or was I just imagining things?  So I decided to leave the bag in my room.  The next day a Peruvian I’d never met asked me, “Where’s your bag?”  I could’ve died right then and there, convinced that the world was an evil place.  The first time I’d been to Lima, it was just an overgrown village really, naïve and sympathetic.  This was a far cry from that.  The last time I was there, six weeks ago, it had almost reverted to its former innocence, pollos a la broaster and all that.

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