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A Mugging in Cartagena

We unfortunately received a call tonight that Greg and Kerri, our friends who sailed us to Colombia (and who are also our current hostel roommates), were mugged tonight at a portion of la muralla, the wall that lines portions of Cartagena.  While sitting in one of the inset windows, two men approached them and demanded that Greg empty his pockets.  As one man was insisting that Greg show the contents of every cargo pocket, Kerri, who was being searched by the other man, grabbed the man by his hair and yelled “Get off me f@#%er!”  Greg also resisted, and, mistaking the knife in the man’s hand for a nail, was stabbed in the shoulder.  The men fled, and, thanks to the police presence on just about every corner in barrio Getsemani, one man was apprehended by nearby cops when Greg and Kerri yelled for help.

Greg’s shoulder is fine, and it is fortunate that the wound is minor.  As I write this post, Greg and Kerri are at the police station in order to ensure this guy is charged for his crime.  He is currently claiming that Greg owes them a large sum of money for cocaine (although trying to convince cops that you sell drugs instead of steal people’s wallets seems like a bad move), and that Greg’s bleeding shoulder has no correlation to the incident.

While the Getsemani neighborhood is very safe (we sit in the plaza every night and watch kids play soccer while their parents gather over juice and arepas), I have heard several times to be careful on la muralla at night.  It is also Independence week in Cartagena, and the rush of festivities and crowds of people grant opportunities that are tempting for thieves.  As we all know, it is important to be prepared for such scenarios, and to remain aware of your surroundings regardless of your local.  Greg and Kerri both mentioned that they wished pepper spray had been in their pockets, which is an item that I frequently recommend to ramblers.

One of my primary goals for Ramble Writer is to offer words of encouragement for travelers as opposed to the “horror stories” that I so often hear pertaining to Latin America.  As a result, I am a bit hesitant to broadcast a story that could taint people’s view of Cartagena and Colombia.  However, what happened to Greg and Kerri happens to travelers throughout the world, and Cartagena’s recent increase in police presence is the reason why one of these men were apprehended.  Colombianos are cognizant of their country’s bad rap – I frequently talk to locals  promoting Colombia’s charms: friendly people, stunning landscapes, old cities filled with brightly colored colonial architecture, and, of course, beautiful women.

The Colombian Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism began an ad campaign, which ventures on being comical, that addresses travelers’ fear: “Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay.”

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4 Comments so far (Add 1 more)

  1. GREG KERRI I lOVE YOU!!! Brother, Dad found out from this blog, He didnt Tell mom, but We all Suggest you leave, I say Kick Some ass! And please call home! Love you guys im coming to visit!

    1. Phillip Kutsen on November 17th, 2009 at 7:19 pm
  2. For any skittish readers, I just want to follow-up Rochelle’s emphasis that this is NOT an everyday occurrence in Cartagena. I’ve lived here as a big, shiny, conspicuous gringo for almost a year and been in nearly every corner of the city without incident. (Unfortunately, the legal problems Greg and Kerri are experiencing in their pursuit of justice are all too typical — the police are corrupt as heck, even though that’s not unique to Cartagena or Colombia by any stretch of the imagination.)

    In about 2.5 years in Latin America, I’ve never been mugged and had my pocket picked 5 times (3 successfully). It does happen, but not all the time. Use common sense, be confident (if you’re walking around scared and nervous, you already LOOK like a victim), avoid sketchy situations, and don’t carry a lot of valuables to big street parties where you’ll be constantly brushing up against other people. Even the wall around Cartagena is safe to be on at night, except for about a 3-500 meter stretch in Getsemaní, which is where Greg and Kerri had their unfortunate encounter.

    2. Blake Rosser on November 16th, 2009 at 8:54 am
  3. Thought this was amusing. My 16 year old niece is avidly following your blog and told my family before I had a chance……

    Kerri – Your Brother, James called about 15 minutes after we hung up. He said how come I don’t know anything about this stabbing and robbery , I told him I had just heard. He was taking Aarika to work and she told him about it – she had read it on the ramblewriter! You should email her. Evidently she is keeping tabs on the ramblewriter.
    Lover you, Mom

    3. Kerri Swiggart on November 14th, 2009 at 6:05 pm
  4. So sorry to hear that guys! Please send our best to Greg and Kerri! We ran into a bit of bad luck as well further south before crossing int Equador… Watch your stuff!

    4. Erik Myhre on November 11th, 2009 at 7:08 am

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