A Conversation with a Street vendor in Playa del Carmen-From a friend

A brief summary of a friends conversation with a street vendor that approached him in Playa del Carmen, MX

On Friday I took the ferry from Cozumel to PDC. I have been going to Playa del Carmen each year for at least 10 years. This time I noticed something different:this time I was asked if I wanted drugs or prostitutes non-stop from the time I got off the ferry until I went back and boarded.

I was approached by one guy in particular, who owns a store close to the ferry landing. After a brief exchange in Spanish, I learn he happens to be from Georgia. He asked me to come see about his store, which is like every other peddler there, then he asked me if I wanted a “girlfriend” or if I wanted drugs….of course I said no, but that had been a frequent request since I hopped off the ferry.

A short while later I was in a local coffee shop handling some work emails and he walked in, I asked him he would join me, and surprisingly he did. So I told him I had some questions that I thought he would uniquely be able to answer, and he was very open and answered most of what I asked. I told him I am asking strictly to be able to better understand how to stay safe with my family while in PDC…

Summary follows:

1) He told me I was asked about both drugs and girls because I was alone. Had I been with my family I would have still been hounded, but only for the wares he sells, and every street vendor sells. Not if I wanted drugs or girls. But he DID say there were more drugs in PDC over the last many months as a result of AMLO “stopping the drug war”….they are more open about it. He said most families are fairly safe, just don’t go looking for trouble and it is easy to avoid.

2) He told me that on his block there are 3 or 4 guys also selling for his supplier,not everyone does this, but a few do. In PDC on this particular street 1 major supplier is represented, but the reason for much of the unrest lately is there is another group trying to work their way in. He didn’t name names, but he said his supplier was from “the north and east part of Mexico.” He said the new ones trying to come in were !@#$. And they are a “different breed” altogether. His words, not mine. He also said the quality if !@#$ drugs was inferior, and we would likely hear about more deaths from OD in the coming years if they don’t change quality. He said buy from him; quality is higher….I think he was still testing me to see if I wanted drugs.

3) I asked him about the girls and he told me there are 2-3 brothels in PDC, one really nice one, and a couple of “bargain basement” locations. I asked him more details, and he told me he only gets a commission on the girls. Typically 15% of the patrons spend. So if you ask for a girl, he will walk you to the front door, the brothel will then hand him a ticket with a number, and he goes back later in the day to hand them back the ticket (or tickets), and they pay him based on that patron..the number on the ticket is the identifier of the patron. You can Google brothels in PDC and it will pull the top one right out. You can even select a girl from the photos provided, and reserve her right there.

4) He also told me the sex trade, while brothels are legal, has a darker side, and it seems to be mostly a handful of local wealthy Mexican men who can and sometimes DO make off-menu requests….perhaps they want a blond-haired, blue-eyed girl? In that case, a call goes out to taxi drivers, store owners and bar owners. They “spot” for the lady that meets the desired request. He said Europeans girls are easiest, but he didn’t say why. For example, maybe a taxi driver drops a handful of travelers at a bar, and one of them fits the profile of the request, the taxi driver will alert someone of who she is, and where he dropped her off. From there, depending on time of day, perhaps a drink is laced, or some other means, they will see if they can get the young lady away long enough to fill the request. He said this is very rare…..that this draws undue attention, and he has never done this, but he has said it happens from time to time.

5) He said no one in PDC has as good of an eye on the dark markets other than taxi drivers. He said very few were not getting extra money in commissions by taking their riders their brothels, or to their drug sellers. Taxi drivers are the intermediary in every area of the trades. He said the brothels and drug supplier have to compete for the taxis.

6) I asked him how to keep my family safe just walking around. He said an”older” American on holiday with wife and kids is far from anything they really want. BUT he said just get back to the resort or hotel before the sun goes down…all the really nefarious stuff occurs after dark. Drug deals are 24/7 as are the requests for brothels, but the really dark side of PDC (and Cancun for that matter) seems to come out at night. And he said stay on the east side of Highway 307; the more touristy, the better. West of 307, closer to the jungle, is pretty bad.

7) He said someone is always watching. They watch for how we carry ourselves. How we carry our money (front pocket, back pocket, wallet, money clip, etc). Europeans mostly carry a murse, so they are far more likely to get pickpocketed.

Closing: IF you have kids going to spring break in MX tell them to be aware, if you fall into these profiles be aware. You will be sized up in MX!!