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How I Got Robbed in El Salvador 🇸🇻
Being dumb, really dumb...
“What the hell, Jake?! Why do you wanna go there?”
My Dad was not pleased.
It was my first trip abroad. I was traveling solo, but decided to meet up with a buddy in the bustling metropolis of San Salvador.
A bustling metropolis, which at the time, was about to ranked the third most dangerous city…
Pops probably had a point on this one, but in my quest for adventure, exploration, and bunda — I could not be deterred.
So I left the world-class city known as Managua, Nicaragua one morning and hopped on a bus to El Salvador.
Hotel booked. Well, more like a private room at a hostel in what could be considered one of the nicest neighborhoods in the city — right next to the World Trade Center.
Arriving in San Salvador 🇸🇻
Being legitimately the only gringo on a bus full of Central Americans while crossing the Honduras and El Salvador borders from Nicaragua definitely drew some attention when bags were checked.
I’m not saying cavity searches, but it wasn’t far off.
After the pleasant border crossing experiences, I finally made it to San Salvador.
The city looked like a raging shithole and I spoke no Spanish. So there was a bit of nerves when the taxi I called finally showed up and was covered head-to-toe in tattoos.
Gang tats sooth the nerves.
But he was cool, seemingly. We didn’t speak, but he dropped me off at the hostel safe and sound.
I threw my bags in the room, took a shower, and headed off to the mall area to meet up with my buddy.
He’d already been in the city for a few days and was a travel veteran at the time. Said he thought the place wasn’t as dangerous as people made it out to be.
We chat for a few hours, grab some food, and begin making plans for a big Friday night out in San Salvador.
Friday night and the subsequent hangover throughout Saturday go smoothly.
Nightlife in San Salvador was truly insane back then.
Two gringos rolling up to the highest-end bar in the city. Three security guards with AK-47s on their hips eyeing us up and down before, again, a near cavity search to let us inside.
Then inside, the spot is filled with the richest of rich in the country. Model girls, narcos, and politicians.
Not a damn one wanting to talk with two lowly gringos.
Then we found a massive club in some mall that was a bit more friendly to foreigners, if you know what I means, ser.
Very nice place. Many good times in that club, ser.
It’s about 6PM on Saturday night. We’ve gotten rid of the hangover and are planning to hit the same club at the mall later on that evening.
But being the strapping young lads we were, we decided it’s time for a workout.
There was a park two blocks away that the hostel manager had told us about. It had some soccer goals that should be ideal for pull-ups.
Hit the park and rep out as many pull-ups, push-ups, and planks as we could in 30-minutes.
Then come back to the hostel, shower up, and head to pre-game at dinner.
High IQ Gringos
So we get to the park.
Nothing but the clothes on our backs and keys to the hostel room.
No phones, no wallets.
It’s a park with a high chainlink fence around it, so the soccer balls can’t escape. There’s one soccer field and a little bit of playground equipment.
We start warming up, getting the body loose. Some jumping jacks and arm circles.
Then we hear some people talking.
We turn around to see a group of 5 Salvadorian teenagers walking towards us, their hands are behind their backs, and they’re not really being aggressive. Tattoos dotting their skin.
They’re all about 10 feet away from us.
We’re cornered in the chainlink fenced park. Nowhere to run.
“Where are you from?”
I spoke no Spanish at the time, but my buddy did and quickly responded:
“We’re from France.”
They muffle a reply as the distance closes. It finally clicks as they’re about 3-4 feet away from us and yell at us to lift up our shirts.
They wanted to see our stomachs to make sure we weren’t gang affiliated.
Yep, we’re getting jumped.
Right then, they bring their hands forward and all of them have makeshift weapons.
A few of them looked like they should be used for a shish kabob at a BBQ. The others looked like homemade prison shanks.
Homemade weapons. Classy.
I had more muscle mass than my buddy at the time, so the gang uses three members to attack him first.
The other two stand about 3-4 feet from me and wait — with their homemade shanks in hand.
I’m frozen. My mind goes in this crazy slow-mo mode. It felt truly surreal.
They shove my buddy and he trips over a ledge while trying to maintain his balance.
The three of them all pummel on top of him and take literally everything he has:
Keys to the hostel
The scuffle is over for him.
My buddy stands up and brushes himself off, then politely asks for his glasses and keys back — since they have no value to the robbers.
They look at each other and oblige.
I’m still in a state of shock, but realize I’m next. They’re completely done with my buddy. He’s of no use to them now.
He’s free to leave.
One of the gangbangers standing next to me starts grabbing at my shorts.
I shove the dude away with all my might, he stumbles, and I take off sprinting towards the gate.
All five dudes sprint after me.
Luckily, I’d been a college athlete and have some wheels.
I make it to the gate, but one guy almost catches me and kicks the gate closed on my back.
I didn’t feel anything.
I keep sprinting towards the street.
Once I’m 30-40 feet away, I look back.
I hadn’t realized how in shock my buddy was because I was in shock too.
I slowly creep back to the chainlink fence, but on the outside. My buddy isn’t moving. The gangbangers are all staring at me, yelling, waving their homemade shanks.
I yell at my buddy:
“BROOOOOO!! WALK TOWARDS THE FUCKING GATE SLOWLY. THEY’RE DONE WITH YOU. LET’S GO!”
He finally snaps to his senses and starts slowly walking to the gate. He tells the gangbangers he’s leaving and they make no attempts to fuck with him or hold him hostage.
He gets just barely outside the gate and takes off sprinting. We sprint back to the hostel.
Back at the Hostel
My buddy and I get into the safe confines of the hostel and finally catch our breath.
The adrenaline was insane.
We start yelling at the hostel manager:
“Why the fuck did you not tell us the park was gang territory?!”
He speaks good English:
“What happened?! We have guests go to that park all the time.”
Then he glances at his watch…
“Ohhhhh yeah…you can’t go there at dusk.”