Since I first moved to Mexico, a few years back now, I have tried to write a blog about the realities of life as an expat. If you look through the archives you’ll find depictions of the mundane and the exciting, the challenges and the ridiculous. All the moments that can happen to a naive American expat. But, til now, nothing has been quite as inspiring as what I got to see last night here on the island of Cozumel. Our community has been hit with some problems and people showed up to address them, lots of people.
Before I go any further I’m going to attach a disclaimer here. I’m not a journalist, nor was I recording events for such purposes. This is just one expat’s observations and reactions to the first meeting of the Cozumel Neighborhood Watch Group. How is this relevant? Well, for example, many important names of those who worked hard might not be included here. Still, for those unable to attend, or those who just like to read about our island, here are a few of the highlights.
Let’s start with a bit of a back story. Cozumel is one of the safest places in Mexico and, I would venture to say, just about anywhere. Still, as of late, the crime rate has been rising. But, and this is what is so inspiring to me, here the victims aren’t just faceless names in a paper somewhere, no. Here they are our friends and neighbors. In other words, the folks that live here refused to become mere statistics. They got proactive and they did it quickly.
The photo at the top of this piece shows the founder, Richard, standing with the co-founders and administrators: Joey, Luh, and Maria. These folks got the ball rolling, created a FaceBook page, invited others to participate and, within days, they were joined by hundreds more who also live on the island; all anxious to know what could be done. It was suggested that a meeting should be held so that information could be gathered and shared. Again, in mere days, a location was found, the word was spread, volunteers scrambled for supplies, interpreters were found, and the relevant officials were asked to participate. It was set. The first official meeting of the Cozumel Neighborhood Watch Group was held at Woody’s Bar and Grill on December 19, 2012 at 6:00 and, let me tell you, the place was packed.
It was a bit of a madhouse just before the meeting began. Nelly, the owner of Woody’s, was busily running around making sure everyone had what they needed. That’s her in the picture on your right. And, while the folks came into the room, volunteers were setting up their computers, handing out forms, answering questions, and generally making themselves useful. Friends greeted friends, seats were filled and then they began to line up along the walls. It quickly became apparent that, in spite of the holiday season, people were prioritizing. Soon it was time to begin. Karen took the microphone and started the proceedings.
For the next hour, or so, the police representative, Sergio Terrazas, informed us of what police involvement could be expected. And, with Monica Sauza acting as translator, he also covered topics such as emergency numbers, acceptable self-defense measures, and the problems officers face when arresting minors. He took special care to let us know that minors are not prosecuted in the same manner as they would be in America and, at that point, the frustration of just about everyone was evident. After that he touched on a few more bases and then took questions. When he was finished there were a few folks that offered additional information about security systems and lighting options that are available on the island.
The meeting ended around 7:30. A board with a map of Cozumel had been set up just outside the room so that we could use pins to mark our places of residence. At this point I was happy to notice that I live in an area that had a lot of pins. As an expat here on the island, it’s good to know that I’m surrounded by concerned citizens who are looking out for each other. We may have a little trouble in paradise, but, let me assure you, these folks here aren’t going down without a fight. Salud!
p.s. check out their FaceBook page – Cozumel Neighborhood Watch Group