Sunday morning I was taking a walk around Parque Bolivar in the Center of Medellin. There was a makeshift sermon with a crowd of about 5 people listening to an old man preach from a bible. Probably a hundred people littered the park just enjoying a beautiful sunday afternoon in the shade.
I bought a banana and strawberry smoothie and sat in the park to do some people watching when a young bum sat next to me and started asking for money. When I refused to give him a thousand pesos he pulled out a cheap version of a swiss army knife and told me to give him all my money.
I told the kid to fuck off and started to walk away. That’s when his buddy came by trying to reach into my pockets. This guy sure as hell wasn’t getting my iPhone and we went to the ground in a little tugging match to keep his hands out of my pocket. Then a third guy tried to reach his hands into my other pockets. That’s when I started getting pissed off and pushing back. The guy with the knife quickly decided he didn’t want to get involved anymore and kept his distance. The other two got away pretty quickly but circled me for a few seconds.
Realizing that they probably weren’t interested in making another move with just the three of them, I walked away. Nothing was missing except the last half of my smoothie which was now on one of the bums pants. The guy with the knife just kept his distance and screamed “Gringo”. I guess he recognized me 🙂
After the incident, a guy came up apologizing for the situation and asking for money. He claimed to have helped me. At some point I did hear a guy screaming at the bums, but I have no idea who was doing the screaming. After a lengthy discussion I gave the guy 5000 pesos (about $2.50). If he really was trying to help, I would have happily paid more, but there’s no way of knowing if he was part of the scheme or truly trying to help.
It’s too bad. It really is a nice park, but the businesses are going to suffer if the locals aren’t willing to help clean up the area. There are normally police patrolling the area, but there weren’t any around at this particular moment.
In anticipation of some of my friends comments…. like how did I allow myself to get in that situation….
The truth is that there was every indication that nothing good was going on there. That was what made it entertaining to watch. I knew that anyone with any sense would walk away before trouble happened, but my stubborn streak wouldn’t allow a couple of druggies to dictate how I was going to spend my day.