Drug cartels, kidnapping, bribery, robbery, extortion, murder! These were all concerns expressed by our friends and relatives when we broached the subject of extended travel SOTB [south of the border]. Now admittedly, these are all legitimate worries. But, being the fuddy-duddies that we are we do not loiter in bars and cafes or parks much after 9:00 PM, pull out rolls of cash, flash lots of bling or explore neighborhoods that look sketchy or that we’ve been cautioned to avoid.
But honestly, no one warned us of the sidewalks. These pedestrian pathways designed to promote safety have caused us as much physical damage as Montezuma’s Revenge or the mosquitoes and sand flies. The sidewalks have been the cause of trips, slips, stubs and dings far out of proportion to their posted hazard. And this little talked about and unreported evil is nearly universal both in large cities and small towns throughout Latin America. No place we’ve visited has been exempt from the ravages of broken, uneven, malformed concrete, bricks or cobblestones, twisted and narrow steps, curbing that can be grotesquely elevated or nearly non-existent. It may be glossed over in the newest and trendiest of neighborhoods, but walk a few blocks and the scourge returns.
Now, there are sidewalks that are tastefully, even artfully, done and meticulously maintained. While we appreciate and celebrate their existence we don’t take them for granted as they are conspicuously uncommon. They are usually associated with buildings that are well-maintained such as the central park, up-scale housing developments or fronting ritzy buildings.
But, as in the US, they are primarily bread-and-butter, utilitarian and functional except when they ain’t. And when they ain’t they can be accidents waiting to happen, annoying or, occasionally, amusing.
So next time someone you know or love proposes to venture SOTB be sure to warn them of the unknown dangers lurking under their feet. Oh yeah, and while they’re gawking at the beautiful parks and churches ahead or looking sideways into various businesses and stores remember to tell them to check occasionally for obstacles jutting out of buildings at shoulder and head level too!
By Richard and Anita, October, 2013