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Safety at Home in Mexico

Luckily, I don’t have any firsthand experience with how important it is to protect the safety of your home in Mexico. Judging by the way Mexicans construct their homes, there must be a real need for security. Mexican homes tend to look like Fort Knox. When I first came here, I felt threatened and reduced next to the 20-foot-high walls people build around their houses.

An architect from UNAM (Universidad Autonoma de Mexico) told me how the cultural history has influenced Mexican home design. The Spaniards brought with them an Arabic tradition where external windows were small, permitting people to shoot arrows out through them, while the interior courtyards were private family spaces. He stressed the macro-cultural factors influencing this, such as tribal warfare. I noticed the micro-cultural factors surrounding women’s roles in private and public life.

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Anyway, when these Spaniards came to Mexico to rape, plunder, steal, and control, they had good reason to reproduce architectural features that kept them safe from upset native people. Sadly, the modern situation STILL reinforces these same home safety features (not that the features themselves are bad). Once someone breaks into your house, your stuff–and possibly you and your family are toast. The police don’t or can’t keep you safe.

Prevention is the key to the safety of your home.

Physical precautions:

1. Choose a home in a neighborhood where people are out and about. This would be a not-so-rich, not-so-poor neighborhood. Some rich neighborhoods are terrifyingly lonely, with nothing but blocks and blocks of 20-foot-high-walls topped with razor wire. Who will hear you if you get into trouble? If you don’t want to be with other people, why not just stay in the US where the police are professional?

2. Mexican houses and housing complexes generally have a wall surrounding them, with a huge metal door. Only people with keys can get in through the giant door, called the porton. You have two good choices. You can choose a home with a private entrance. Or, if you want to live in a complex, choose one with a limited number of people who have access from the street. Complexes are nice because they often include a shared swimming pool.

3. Keep your street door (porton) locked, even when you are inside.

4. Ground-floor windows need to lock and have bars protecting them.

5. If your house doesn’t happen to have a wall around it, lock all windows when you leave. People will know your schedule.

6. Make sure there is no place where people could climb up, around, or into to reach unprotected windows and doors.

7. When you take a quick walk to the neighborhood store (doesn’t that sound great?!) don’t leave your door unlocked. There are always many people around. Most will protect you, but someone just might decide to steal something.

Community precautions:

1. Form networks with your neighbors by saying hello when you see them and trading little favors. This is actually our TOP safety precaution and I admit I don’t always follow the physical ones listed above.

2. Don’t let people know what you have inside.

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