We visted about 6 homes in completely different areas, and they were all very security conscious. My brother and I noted that ALL the windows we saw had bars on them. The doors as well, and sometimes, the whole front of the home was completely gated. There was no space between one house and the next, so you couldn’t reach the back yard without going through the house. Therefore, there were no windows in rooms along the side of the house. There were tall walls (not fences) separating neighbours. And we very rarely saw cars parked outside. They were always parked in a garage within the house.
I’ve seen this before (in Mexico and Cuba), but it seems to me they’re much more worried about crime there. Donato used to have a watch repair and jewellery story. It was actually part of the house. He would use a garage-like door to enclose it at night. After he was robbed twice at gunpoint, he closed for good. He still does a lot of business, though. He has plenty of clients who come to his front door (must be old clients, or through word of mouth). When he opens the front door, he only opens the translucent glass portion. The door is still barred, and people pass him watches or jewellery through the door.
My cousin Maria, and her husband, run a small variety store. Their house is attached, and there used to be a connecting door. They’ve closed it off. They’ve been robbed 22 times. (Yes, that’s twenty-two.) Two years ago, they installed metal bars along the counter. Items and cash are exchanged through the bars. Since they’ve installed the bars, they’ve only been robbed twice.
In one of the nicer neighbourhoods, we noted that there were police officers in little booths at the street corners. The houses were still gated, though.
Regardless of what area we were in, we noticed that drivers didn’t obey stop lights at night. At first, we were shocked. ‘Hey, that light was red. You didn’t stop!’ They explained that in some neighbourhoods, they only slowed down or paused for a red light, checking both ways quickly before proceeding. They were afraid of criminals storming the car if they stopped. This wasn’t one particular driver doing it, we noticed everyone driving us did it. I believe it happened while driving through different areas, but perhaps it was the same area we were always driving through. I’m not sure.
Despite all this, the people were warm and friendly. Everyone is greeted with a kiss, always, even the men. Each morning we kissed everyone in the house good morning, and each evening, we kissed everyone good night. By the end of the trip, my brother and I were kissing each other, too. Seems rather cold to kiss everyone else, but not your own brother!