robbed in spain

When I was living in Spain, I was robbed. Twice. The first time it happened I was caught totally unaware because they did it in such a bizarre way. A guy named Chris and I were talking with two guys in Retiro Park and one of them asked if we played fútbol (soccer). We said no. He then stood next to me and proceeded to lift my leg into the air with his leg, as if he was showing me a move in soccer. I thought it was weird, but I had seen stranger things and didn’t think much of it. He offered to show Chris the move, but he said no thanks. He did it to me again and then we parted ways.

As we walked away I asked Chris why he didn’t want the guy to show him and he responded, “I didn’t want him to take my wallet.” I stopped in shock, slapped my back pocket and hit nothing but butt (well, my pants were still there of course. Goodness knows I would have noticed if he had taken my pants)

He had stolen my wallet! (Presumably while he was doing his little soccer trick)

We ran back to the scene of the crime and saw the two thieves huddled in some bushes nearby, looking through my wallet. As we ran towards them, they saw us, tossed my wallet on the ground and took off. I retrieved my wallet but the money was gone (surprise, surprise), so we made chase. We almost caught up to them at one point because they were walking, but they heard us coming as we approached and began running again. We lost track of them in the metro station and they got away. I was only carrying about 2000 pesetas, which is the equivalent of about $20, so the real unpleasant part was realizing I had been a sucker for their trick, though I could have used the twenty bucks.

The second time I was with Chris again, and we were sitting on a bench just outside Retiro Park, talking with a woman. I had placed my backpack between my legs for the specific purpose of keeping track of it, because it hadn’t been that long since the first incident. I had also decided to keep my wallet in the backpack so it wouldn’t get stolen again. They had taken my wallet without me knowing, and I figured they wouldn’t be able to take my whole backpack without me noticing.

I was wrong.

Somehow, a guy managed to sneak it out from under my legs. I saw nothing. Chris said he saw a man sitting next to me on the bench at one point, but hadn’t thought anything of it. The stolen backpack had a Bible in it, which I found ironic. They stole a book which instructs people not to steal, but the irony gave me little comfort. The backpack was eventually returned by someone who found it near a bus stop, but the Bible and wallet had been taken. Chris and I had spent several hours checking all the trash cans within a two or three mile radius, but found nothing.

After having been robbed twice, I admit I’m a little skittish when I’m in crowded areas where a pickpocket might be lurking, but I’ve tried not to let it affect me too much.

Even though I had two negative experiences, there were many more positive ones and I would love to return to Spain someday. If I do though, I plan to carry a small amount of cash in the bottom of my sock and hope for the best.


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  1. Turist being robbed in Retiro Park is turn into a shamefull tradition. Don’t know why.

    Nowadays is a safer place, but always you must keep aware of people around.

    I’ve live in Madrid all my life, I’m in my thirties, and I’ve been robbed only once, I was assaulted while I was having a haircut, so bizarre…

    Come to Madrid again, Dan, no fear. I love this city. Nobody is a stranger.

    Comment by Juan on February 16, 2005 @ 2:08 am
  2. Hey Dan, at lunch I can teach you some fly fishing moves. Well, maybe we should wait until after payday.

    The part I don’t get, is why didn’t this Chris fellow warn you about the soccer move guy while he was stealing your wallet?

    Comment by jason on February 16, 2005 @ 8:11 am
  3. Juan: Thanks for the invitation. I really did love living in Madrid. It is a wonderful city, and I even enjoyed Retiro Park. I spent nearly the whole day there for several months.

    Jason: I’m not sure I get what you’re suggesting. How would fly fishing moves help?

    I of course asked Chris why he hadn’t told me, and he said he didn’t think of it until after. At first he just didn’t want to mess with the guy, then he thought of why.

    Comment by dan on February 16, 2005 @ 9:36 am
  4. I find it funny that they took the Bible as well. Maybe they will repent later. Some guy saw the Passion and confessed to killing his gf (everyone including the police thought it was a suicide).

    One time at Deseret Books in the ZCMI mall, the clerk volunteered that a lot of scriptures were stolen. This is funny because of course you can get them for free. “So why would people steal them?” we asked her. “They want the leatherbound ones.” was the response. Flawed logic, indeed. Ah well.

    How were the police in Spain? I have a friend who got mugged twice in Mexico on a mission and he said the police didn’t care because they got a cut of what the muggers make. So the police turn a blind eye.

    Comment by Renee on February 16, 2005 @ 1:03 pm
  5. Renee: I didn’t see much of the police while I was there. It never occurred to me to report the incident because I knew the guys were vagrants and would be virtually impossible to locate.

    I don’t subscribe to any conspiracy theories about the police though. I’m sure they had more important crimes to deal with.

    Comment by dan on February 16, 2005 @ 1:40 pm
  6. You can see policemen in horses (or cars) almost everywhere in Retiro Park… And, of course, Reneé, Spain is not Mexico and Police don’t got a cut of what muggers make. Unfortunately, this theft thing is not easy to erradicate in this type of places. I’ve heard Central Park in NY, some kind of ways, it’s the same.

    Comment by Juan on February 17, 2005 @ 3:26 am

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