November 26

I opened the side door in our Jeep and wanted to put back my camera bag. “Where is the luggage?” I said to myself. I rushed over to check the back of the car. The gate was open and all the boxes with our belongings were missing. “Oh my God, what are we going to do?” I heard Eva. Earlier, I noticed Police officers sitting not far. I ran to let them know what has just happened. “Me han robado”, I was shouting in Spanish that I have been robbed. Police started to search the area.

Earlier that morning, we checked-out of our hotel, and packed all our boxes in the back of our car. We drove a few miles to see Fort Guadalupe and Fort Laredo. For last few days, we were in Puebla City. It was a small break in our trip around Central Mexico. Famous and well known even in the USA, Cinco de Mayo, or the Fifth of May is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s victory over the French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Before going to Mexico City, we wanted to visit a place related to this historical event. It turned out to be a large public recreation area, after last night’s event many people were working on dismounting the huge stage. We parked in the area near the entrance to Guadelupe fortress.

Old Fort Loreto::Puebla, Mexico::
Fort Loreto

The historical monument did not make any impression on us, so we decided not waste more time and returned to Jeep. We were away from the car no more than 10 minutes, but it was enough time for someone to steal almost everything we carried. I hoped that the thieves would be somewhere close. When asked to help, the police officers put their hands up hopelessly in the air like little children not willing nor able to assist. We waited and waited for something to happen. It was clear that we could not recover anything.

After some time we calmed down and began to assess the extent of our losses. All 13 boxes were gone. In these, we had everything we had. All Eva’s cosmetics, a camping table, stove, shower, all of our clothing; we had nothing. The only clothes left were what we had on us. I had to find some positive side in this terrible event. “Listen,” I said to Eva who was almost crying, “we still have a camera and all the pictures we have taken so far. Laptop in the secret compartment is intact, we also have our passports,” I continued. “When we get back home we can buy everything back, imagine memory cards with pictures being stolen, that would be a disaster.”

Police ignored this event completely. They told us that a report is not needed. They only gave us their phone number in case we want to check the status of the investigation in the future. Before sunset we had to buy things like toothbrushes, soap, pants, panties, socks, T-shirts, etc. to withstand the next night with any signs of comfort.

Such stories usually end at this point. Things are stolen and there is nothing you can do to recover them. This is exactly how it was for us, but after 30 hrs. after the robbery, Matt who was far away at home contacted us. He noticed that tablet, stolen the day before appeared on the internet and its GPS location was visible. At that time, we were staying close to Mexico City, near Teotihuacan ruins. Without any hesitation Eva and I decided to drive back to Puebla, “Let’s try, we know our chances are minimal, but we’ll see what happens,” we said to ourselves and set off.

Shopping after the burglary::Puebla, Mexico::
Shopping after the burglary

The tablet was transmitting its location in the Puebla suburbs. There was no Police station in the village, only civilian guards. We found their station and explained the whole situation to them, the robbery, the tablet, etc. They did not want to help; “You have to go to Police headquarters in Puebla City” was their answer. We went there and explained everything from the beginning. We asked for police assistance in order to visit the location indicated by the GPS. We talked to at least ten people. The answer was always the same “we will contact you later.” We wanted to act quickly, but there was no interest from anyone. We were insisting so hard that police officials had no choice, but to write a report. Two hours later, we had a report in hands, but still nobody wanted to assist us.

We returned to the village were our tablet was. I was desperate to do something. GPS location pointed to one particular house. It was very poor district. It was already dark; I held a flashlight in my hand. All the houses were behind high walls, but the house I was interested in had windows at the street level. I peeked inside. A teenage girl was sitting, holding some electronic device in her hands. I knocked the window and asked her about the boxes. She got scared and stared calling someone to come. I was shouting too, I wanted police to come. After few moments, girl began to cry telling she could not say anything. Then, the civilian guards arrived, the same people we talked to a few hours earlier. They told me that they got a phone call that somebody was running around with a gun. I guessed it was about me as I was holding a flashlight.

Having civilian guards on-site, I asked them to enter the house with me. To prove the case, I showed them the report written at the police station. I hoped that inside I would find a sign that our stolen belongings were there, possibly a box cover or a pair of pants, maybe a shoe, anything that belonged to us. Guards did not want to do that, but I was told that the real police is about to come from Puebla. Suddenly a pickup truck stopped with a squeak of tires. Three drunken men jumped out of the cabin. As I guessed, they had to live in that house. The argument stared between them and the guards. All were jumping like little roosters in a ring. This lasted until the police arrived and only negotiations begin. During that time, I noticed one of the drunk men entered house.

After that man went out, Police allowed me enter the house. The household was in the terrible condition, not only very poor but also terribly dirty. There were no floors, no furniture, and only one room with a naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Dirty clothes were scattered on the greasy black floor. Old and ruined mattress lay in the corner and dirty pots were nearby. I looked around and noticed that the teenage girl had disappeared, but I did not see her leaving the house. She had to escape in a different way. I did not find any trace of our stuff and I had to retreat.

Did somebody follow us from our hotel the day of robbery? It is possible. Was I in the wrong house looking for our belongings? Perhaps. Were our stolen items hidden before I entered the house? That could be. What I know for sure is that a car alarm and tinted windows do not stop thieves. We also learned that we could not count on any support from the Mexican Police. They do not want to write any reports on purpose. No reports mean nothing has happened and robbery statistics are low.

© 2016 Maciej Swulinski