Enrique from Mexico living in Panama City

I finally left Caracas after spending 10 short days to try and understand the differences between that place and Mexico thought unfortunately I left with more questions in my head and wanting to return.

I arrived in Panama without a clear plan on what to do. My original idea was to visit Caracas, San Pedro Sula/Tegucigalpa, San Salvador and Guatemala City though I have visited a few extra places where I have had some great experiences and learned so much.

So, I met up with Enrique, a friend of Juan, an old mate of mine from Mexico City.

Enrique has been living with his wife in Panama City for the past 6 months. It has been a little hard for him to adapt to the place and find a job within  the animation industry but he is trying and will eventually find it, I’m sure about that…

As soon as we met up at his nice apartment located along the luxurious coastline of Panama City we immediately connected. 

It was easy to chat with him as I felt that he was, in many ways, similar to me in many aspects. He seems a simple person with no pretensions. 

As our conversation went deeper, he told me that he did not feel that happy living in Panama at the moment, that it has been a little hard to interact with the people, they don’t seem as friendly as he expected. He misses Mexican food, his friends and life in the city. I completely understand that as I felt pretty much like that on my last few years living in the UK.

Our chat moved on to talking about Mexico for obvious reasons. He is very interested in investigating on the drugs trade in Mexico and has read several books on the topic. He has also got a few tragic stories to tell, like many Mexicans have unfortunately. 

One of them involved a friend’s relative who was driving a van with a colleague of his in Durango, as Enrique recalls. 

So the two guys pulled into a parking lot to buy some stuff in a shop although the way in which they drove out of the parking area was identical to how the narcos in that state drive, it’s kind of like a unique mark that warns anyone who they are. They did not have a clue about this until a few weeks later when they were informed…

So, they drove off and minutes later they were intercepted by a pick up truck. The narcos road blocked them at gunpoint and forced them off of the van. Locked both of them in the car boot and took them to an unknown location. The narcos interrogated them for about 2 weeks about their gang affiliation but they obviously did not have anything to do with that. 

After some time, they were luckily freed by the criminals but before they were allowed to go they warned them not to turn their heads back or else they would be shot dead…

Weeks later, they were notified by the police in the area that the reason they were stopped and abducted was due to the peculiar way in which they reversed, being that that is the narco style. They were extremely lucky to be let off without suffering any physical abuse.

Enrique knows that the situation in Mexico is not as easy as many think. We keep chatting until I gently turn round to observe the flamboyant city scape that surround his apartment at night. Flashy lights and tall high-rise buildings disguise the city from its truth. Behind the long wealthy strip a different picture can be observed. One can decide which direction to turn to, whether to look towards the small wealthy touristy radius or to view the real Panama inhabited by ‘real people’.

We carried on chatting about Mexico and its beauties, when Enrique shared with me another sad story that involved one of his ex girlfriend’s friends sister. 

This girl who suffered this tragic episode, who I will refer to as Maria was on her way to work early in the morning in the Estado de Mexico, a part of Mexico well known for the increase in violence, including violence against women were feminised and disappearances take place more than in any other States in Mexico according to some national statistics.

Maria was walking when suddenly she was intercepted by a taxi. The driver and passenger forced her into the car never to be seen again by the family.

Time went by and the family finally found out about her whereabouts and the reason for the abduction. Maria had been confused with another girl who was meant to be taken away and killed by the aggressors under the boyfriends orders. The boyfriend had payed some people to carry out the job due to issues they had in a love affair ,according to the police.

Maria was confused with another woman. She coincided with the description provided by the man. The aggressors saw that Maria looked like the girlfriend and took her away, retained her and killed her in a very barbaric way.

After a long conversation revolving around the tragic misfortunes of Mexico, we decided to shift our attention toward more positive ideas. I kept on thinking about the huge differences in Panama and how people can cope with seeing a small portion of wealth emerge whilst the majority are living a very unequal reality…

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