(Above: Another picture showing just how extremely dangerous South America is from my first trip down there. I had stopped for lunch in this small village, and that lady and her kid asked to pose with my motorcycle so they could take a picture! I tried to fight them off, but they had me surrounded with fresh seafood and friendly people, and I barely made it out of there with any space left in my stomach.)
All sarcasm aside, I just had to comment because the question of "How dangerous is South America?" came up again yesterday. (Our most recent blog post covered the same topic.)
I was in one of the BMW motorcycle dealerships in New Jersey, chatting with staff, and telling them how RIDE Adventures is doing motorcycle tours in South America. One of the staff introduced me to a police officer and customer who had just walked in to buy some parts for his bike. The staff said "hey, this guy Eric works for RIDE Adventures, and does motorcycle tours in South America."
The officer's response: "Hmm.....do your tours include an AK-47?"
Of course, laughter from around the service department ensued, and I did what I could to avoid shaking my head with impolite disbelief.
Folks, it's reasonable to have such impressions of South America if all you've seen are movies and media reports about those countries in the last 20 years. "Why have so many movies and media reports cast this dangerous image of Latin America?" In some cases, such impressions were appropriate (For example: When Pablo Escobar ruled the drug shipping world.) In other cases like the recent escalation of violence with Mexico's drug cartels, certainly anyone involved could get hurt or killed.
As for how the rest of Latin America somehow got "lumped in" with the drug cartels though, that answer should come in another posting, as we're trying not to get political here. In short though, let's just say that political, economical, and military supply lines might have something to do with it.
Point is, that police officer I chatted with will end up feeling foolish someday if he ever actually travels to Argentina, Peru, Chile or any of the countries we do motorcycle tours in. If he ever takes note of the thousands of travelers passing through these countries every year and decides to actually experience these places personally, he will recognize as others have: These stereotypes of Latin America are just downright inappropriate. ESPECIALLY in comparison to a country like the United States, where shootings and murders take place every single day.
Okay. Friday's rant is over. Turn off your televisions, start listening to people who have been through these countries, and we'll see you on your next great motorcycle adventure.