Sunday, September 11, 2011

Behind The Iron Bars

Growing up in New Jersey there were neighborhoods with houses enclosed with iron bars and fences.  Mom always told me "those are bad neighborhoods."  Iron bars always meant to me that this was a neighborhood full of crime, hoodlums and drug addicts.  A place we don't want to live or even drive through. 

Fast forward years later when I moved from New Hampshire to New Mexico one of the first things I noticed was bars on all the windows of houses.  Were these bad neighborhoods?  Should we live there?  As I made friends with New Mexicans and Mexicans and asked why  and they explained.  Bars on the windows are very common within latin cultures.  They feel it's just like installing a burgular alarm or havng a guard dog.  It's a way to protect their homes, families and stuff.  It does NOT mean that the neighborhood is unsafe but is instead a PREVENTATIVE measure.  And they like the look of bars so much that they are made pretty and decorative. They come in all shapes and colors with beautiful designs on the more expensive ones. 

And Panamanians agree with this theory.  All homes and apartments in Panama have bars on the windows, gates surronding the property with locks and then regular wooden doors into the home also with locks.  There are three locks into this house we are renting.  We have to open the gate in the driveway, then the steel barred screen door has a lock, then the regular door has a lock.  This is perfectly normal to people here. 

Panamanians take security very seriously.  There are cops and security guards everywhere!  Banks have a guard outside and inside, before entering a bank you are given a once over with a metal detector. Stores have guards and so do hotels, casinos, parking lots and malls.  The police are very visible here too. They are on many street corners, walking the streets, driving marked and unmarked cars and on motorcycles.  Random stops by police to check drivers licenses is also common here.

Thanks to the US,  police here now have radar detectors to stop speeders and us Americans even showed them how to use them.  But we have been told when stopped for speeding always pretend to speak NO Spanish and they usually let you go.  And Clyde always tells me that I'm good at playing dumb and ditzy, so this should be easy for me.

Shopping malls are crawling with guards too and every purchase is bagged securely and stapled many times.  Bags cannot be taken from one store into another. Stores have lockers for bags where they hold your paid purchases from other stores until you get done in their store. 

Clyde being a retired firefighter did not like the bars at first since he see's it as a safety issue in reverse.  To him we can't get out of the house easily in the event of a fire.  But he's settled down and now understands that this is the way of life here.  If we want to live among the Panamanians we must live like the Panamanians.  Besides, all houses are made of cement blocks here and the blocks are covered with more cement and the roofs are tin.  From a firefighters standpoint he explained to me that it would be hard for this house to burn down since it's all cement. 

Hope that helps all of you understand why we now live behind iron bars and fences.  Time to get going now and see what adventures we can have today as two silly gringos living in paradise.

1 comment:

  1. What a great explanation. I've always wondered why there are so many bars on windows and doors in Latin countries in general. Glad you two are enjoying your adventure.


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