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The Accidental Gringa

Most Mexican days of late are as mundane as panela on toast. All that ha-ha-weird isn’t it bizarro-world stuff is very limited or goes unnoticed. I am sure we are desensitized to much of what is unusual or colorful about life here; after two years it’s normal to smell burning garbage and buy tanks of cooking gas from the TOMZA truck, to unwind a spool of Oaxaca cheese to add to salad and to pay bills at the bank or auto- machine. Today, however, there was a new experience, a frightening, frustrating, flight-inducing situation in Progreso in which I was stationary in the Jeep poised to parallel park, and was bumped by a very ornary little person in a beat up truck, confronted, bullied, shoved and threatened.

I think we have made it clear that our everyday interactions with individuals, organizations, professionals, service personnel, and local people have been friendly above all else. We have been helped by police officers and green angels and mechanics, hotel proprieters and neighbors. We have never been hit for the notorious mordita and we have only been victims of very minor theft. This is all preface to say, we like it here and although we are conspicuous it is rarely problematic. Today was one of those days that makes you feel differently, a little threatened and yet indoctrinated. Like being mugged in New York or propositioned by a lady boy in Bangkok.

There was a scene, a crowd, an obstinate adversary, quasi-police officer, an initally puffed up and eventually deflated and tearful dirty blond 30 year old American, and finally two older persons who were very sweet and comforting. After the bumper tap I pulled into the tiny San Francisco parking lot to go about my business of dropping off the laundry and going to the bank. I was surprised to see a a trollish truckdriver on her phone demanding that we “arreglar” the situation lest she call the cops. I was trying to push my way out and she physically barred my way.

By the times the officers arrived I was becoming contrite for an accident that was not my fault; I was partly playing the pitiful American but mostly was genuinely feeling nervous, outnumbered, possibly railroaded and trapped. I wanted to get out. And all the while we waited for this lying little person to plead her case and paint me as the ignorant gringa I was wringing my hands and looking for allies in the crowd. When the parking attendants asked for her to move her truck I jumped in my Jeep thanked the cops and blew out of Progreso, looking in my sideviews all the while.

I was relieved, assured I was in the right, escaping home, but the longer I drove into the marsh toward Chelem and fretted that perhaps they had expected me to wait that they would be coming after me, that I was a fugitive, I had my eyes fixed for signs of pursuit. By now you know that the business of being me is as campy or terrifying as I make it. So in one moment I was genuineley fearful and wanted my husband, cell phone, cash, documents, lawyer, consulate and rocketeer type flying suit I also was watching the scene bemusedly and considering how absurd and what good a story it was that I was unwillingly cooperating in.

I had vowed to never go back to Progreso, which more or less suits me fine. I wonder if I am in trouble officially with the law or with the little butch driver. I don’t want to be at the center of a trumped up accident I cannot perfectly explain with a throng of shoppers staring and glaring. It was probably obvious to everyone that I had done nothing wrong but for a moment that was longer than I would have liked felt like I was going to be thrown into a cockroach infested prison lines with prostitutes and mules. But the fact remains, I am going to have to have clean clothes sometime soon.

There Are 3 Responses So Far. »

  1. Wow, what a terrible story (not the writing but the content). I’ve been waiting for the eventual day when I have a real or imagined traffic accident. I hope that nightmare moment never comes but I’m prepared with my insurance papers and my agents number on speed dial. The way I see it, if the cops didn’t chase you when you drove away then don’t worry about it.

    You might want to think about changing from a “dirty blond” to a brunette to keep that “ornery little person” off your trail. Just kidding. I’m sure she’s attempted this scam so many times that she can’t remember who or where.

  2. Hola, chica!
    Funny… I just wrote an article about insurance in Yucatan Living,
    (do you mind if i link to it? it’s here: and in it is a story of a friend who ended up in jail for 8 days after an accident that WAS his fault. The other thing that was his fault was that he didn’t have insurance.

    If you don’t have any, time to buy some. It’s not expensive… and if you have it, even the kind of incident you are talking about is no problema…you call your insurance guy, he comes out and HE sorts out the mess. We had a similar incident… well, there actually was damage to the other car. The insurance company took care of everything.

    Believe me, it’s money well spent.

  3. Gringa,

    I wouldn’t worry too much about it, As Steve said no one chased you so you probably out of a jam and besides what are the chances that if you return to Progreso the same person will hit your car again and make again a big deal out of it. Unless that person is permanently parked on the same street 24 hours a day looking for unsuspecting gringas to hit I doubt very much you will have a close encounter of the worst kind again.

    As much as lots of people like to help others, there are some who would like nothing better than take advantage of the situation and in this case a local vs a foreigner perhaps the “attacker” was thinking that the law would be on his/her side and at the very least he/she would get something (money) out of you, but thankfully that did not happen.

    So unless you drive “Batman’s” car (which would very easy to point out) I would not worry about going back to Progreso and doing what you usually do and/or find another place (out of Progreso) where to wash you clothes.

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