Me and the Cops


I was in Arequipa, Peru

and frustrated that I wasn't meeting enough ordinary people

So I went to Ayacucho Street, along which dozens of bus routes run, to all parts of the city. I was determined to take a bus to almost anywhere, and get off and walk the neighborhood



when along came Donald Arguelles Mejia, of the Peru National Police

 I engaged him and his partner in light-hearted banter

and asked their advice for which neighborhood to visit




they chatted among themselves, made a couple of phone calls,

and after some minutes Daniel said "Come with me"

I joked that I'd probably end up in handcuffs 



But we hopped a bus

rode about 5 minutes 

got off

I followed him

 to a pretty little park, of which he was duly proud

and which had a lovely view of the city

and El Misti, a snow-capped peak not far away

we hung out with some local youths

and chatted with a group from a local academy

who were there for an informal photo shoot

After spending half an hour with me, Donald left to rejoin his partner

Lovely time with Donald

Just like in the U.S.?
Not so much

I was also delighted with my experience upon arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica. Exiting the airport, I wasn't sure how to get a bus to my hostel.  Two members of the national police force made suggestions, then got out their mobile phones and called my hostel, and relayed directions to me.

I'm reminded also of walking the streets of Amman, Jordan, one evening

I struck up a congenial conversation with a couple of cops at their kiosk

Soon one of them went across the street and brought back a cold drink for me


While composing this piece I was reminded of my joining 15,000 others in Quito, Ecuador, in 2002, to protest the Free Trade Area of the Americas.  After the march through the city was stopped by tear gassing us, we remained in the streets, the protest leaders trying to get an audience with the ministerial summit meeting held at a local posh hotel, behind high barriers.  The ministers refused the request to be heard, until members of Ecuador's National Police told them, "No, you don't understand: you're going to hear these people!" They brought the protest leaders into the meeting hall, where indigenous leader Leonidas Idas told the ministers
"We are in desperate shape. You couldn't possibly understand, you who were born in golden cradles and have never suffered. But we don't have food to feed our children. Our markets are flooded with cheap imports. Imported milk is dumped in Ecuador for half of  what it costs us to produce it..."

The police knew whose side they were on.
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