The Land of Thieves
After being robbed in Barcelona on Easter, I had a lot of work cut out for me. I already headed to the police station the day it had happened and cancelled my cards, but I had to wait for today to arrive to get any money sent and take a trip to the United States Embassy for an emergency passport. I first went with my friend Jamie, another robbed victim, to the Apple store hoping to track our phones. No luck, they had been shut off. We then headed to the police station where she had to make her report and I was shocked to see the place packed with tourists all waiting to make a report of being robbed. My mind just could not absorb the ridiculous amount of people who come to this town and get robbed and being a person who has been traveling for 6 months, this city served as the most theft-ridden place I had come across. I left her there so I could head to the Embassy to now get my emergency passport. It took an hour bus ride to get there, asking passerbys for directions when my map had failed me. I would ask in Spanish giving the illusion that I had been fluent in the language and if it weren’t for the many hand gestures Spaniards tend to use I would not have understood the majority of what they said. I would say “Ahh, okay!” every now and again as if I understood, staring at their hands the entire time as they pointed out thoroughly the turns I would take until I got to the embassy. I had to admit, it felt a bit empowering only being spoken to in Spanish.
I arrived at the Embassy and walked through a small entrance. The whole place was hidden, surrounded by tall walls and trees extending past that so anyone walking by would have no clue what laid behind its walls. They allowed me entry once I had given them my situation and proving I was an American citizen. I walked through the security building and exited to the back where the actual building was. It was like a hidden Paradise, an off-white Miami villa style building complete with pillars and palm trees all around. I thought to myself, this would be the American Embassy. A large American crest with the signature American Eagle marked the entry and as you walk in, a huge American flag was the first thing you saw. Seeing these symbols of America was slightly comforting, like seeing your mom and dad after a terrible ordeal and you run to them for comfort and a resolution to the situation.
I walk in and see a few groups. I began chatting with a couple I sat next to. They had just arrived in Barcelona and fell asleep for ten minutes at the bus station because their Air Bnb was not ready yet. When they awoke, the guy’s wallet was missing from his pocket. The police showed them camera footage from the bus station that showed two guys standing on watch and a third man who sat right next to them as they were sleeping, stuck his hand in his pocket and took off with his wallet within seconds. The worst part about it? The police knew the guy on camera and even had the guy’s number. They called the guy up and asked if he did it (even though he was clearly on camera), when the guy said no the cops just said ‘Okay’ and hung the phone up.
It’s like the whole system is set to screw up tourists. Being in a city built on tourism and tourism being its main income you would think the police would have better measures of protecting the tourists from thieves but they don’t. I had spent the last few days speaking to tourists and locals about the situation who explained that people rarely ever get arrested for theft and if they do, it’s a slap on the wrist where they spend a day in jail and are released the next day. The front desk of my hostel said that there are five people every week from this hostel alone who get robbed. The night I got robbed, Jamie was robbed ten minutes prior and as I was standing with police officers that night, a Swiss guy on the beach came to me saying how a guy ran up to him, socked him in the stomach and stole his phone just before he came to me.
Other shop keepers told Jamie how they part apple phones and remake the phones to resell to get around the locked security set in place. They usually throw purses atop roofs or in garbage cans to get rid of evidence so restaurants along the beach check their rooftops daily to see if there was anything thrown atop the roof the night prior. In the clubs, they watch guys to see where they put their wallet. Once they know, one guy will go up the guy and dance with him to distract the target while another will pick pocket him. The night before I got robbed, a guy from my hostel was hit over the head with a bottle and had everything taken off him just outside the night club. Every night since being robbed I stand outside my hostel, scoping the beach front. I see groups of men standing, talking amongst each other as they stand there and scan the beaches occasionally pointing at groups. The whole ordeal just makes me sick to my stomach. Seeing them scope their next prey and the commonality of it all. And everyone talks as if it’s normal like, “of course it happens just like in every city. Watch your stuff”. But here in Barcelona, it’s on a whole other level. The culture behind it is so developed. They work in packs, like predators searching for their prey. And the worst part about it, the entire city seems to be desensitized to people getting robbed. It has become the normality for them, not taking into account that we are all actual human beings being affected emotionally, financially and at times, physically.
I tried to redirect my thought process and for the most part, resilience and having Jamie by my side has gotten me through this quickly. It’s like an emotional roller coaster, caught in between the desire to just want to sit down and be sad about it all and also pulling my shit together because in the end, you only have yourself and your actions to get past it all. You might be saying, ‘you just got robbed no biggie. It’s only personal belongings’. But it isn’t even that. I felt completely violated being robbed. It made me feel less than what I am. I felt they had outsmarted me. I felt less intelligent. Taken advantage of. The fact that these people exist when I know humanity for the most part is good, yet I have to always be careful every second. The amount of watching I have to do, scanning crowds, faces, situations when all I desire is a carefree world where we can walk about and just live in the moment and be happy and free. They took that from me. I guess it’s a life of balance and this is just the aftershock of it all but at this very moment Barcelona is just filled with bad juju and I can’t wait to get the hell out of this overpriced, thief-infested city.
So Jamie and I will be on a bus tomorrow morning headed to Valencia where we will re-align our chakras. Lay on the beach, read books, run, buy sage hopefully and *fingers crossed* get our palms read from a legit palm reader. Well right now those are the goals. Peace out Barcelona! I am so happy to be leaving you!