Sunday, January 28, 2007

Crime Pays

After much struggle and hard work, and a bit of family capital, Marcos and Giovana made a success of their business, mainly specializing in buying and selling leather. They were able to save, and gradually expand their space in a crowded gallery amidst the dust and rubbish of a commercial market a couple blocks from the roaring traffic ofLima's Via Express.

One evening heading home in their truck, the traffic was jammed up and they had to take a different route through the Barrios Altos area of central Lima, notorious for robberies and assaults. They were crossing a bridge, when out of nowhere appeared two chorros, or petty thieves, and whoosh! ripped off each of the side mirrors, then scuttled off.

Giovana says she was shaking with fright; despite having been born in Lima and living there all her life, she had never been robbed before or since - a feat which would put her in a virtually unique situation among the citizens of that city.

But Marcos thought quickly. He brought the truck to a halt, poked his head out the window,and shouted after the departing chorros: "Hey, I'll give you twenty soles for those!". "In the cachinas, the markets where they sell stolen goods, they ask up to 150 soles for wing mirrors like those", he explains.

Giovana was trembling, but noticed the chorros hesitate, and heard one say to the other "hey, he's offering us twenty soles". They stopped, and tracked back towards the truck. "Thirty", said one curtly. Giovana, fearful, watched as the chorros craned their necks to peer into the truck's window to see if there was anything else worth nabbing. There was a brief negotiation, and it was agreed that the price would be fifteen soles for each mirror.

The chorros took the cash and went on their way; they had cut out their middle man, while Marcos and Giovana kept their mirrors. A peculiar kind of Peruvian efficiency.

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