I’ve written recently about my experience of being offered an 8-year-old girl for the night at my hotel in San Pedro de Atitlán. It wasn’t easy to write but I felt it needed to be brought to people’s attention. And the response has been amazing.
I immediately started receiving emails, comments and Facebook messages from people who had suggestions and contacts, who wanted to help. Non-profits were the preferred choice, though a couple of people suggested going to the police — I didn’t think that was a good idea.
Many suggested I post the name of the hotel and shame them but someone else pointed out that this would just attract pedophiles — good point. Again, something I hadn’t thought of.
I spent one more night at the hotel after it happened, then left for Mexico. Hundreds of James Bond fantasies ran through my head of how I could lure ‘Pedro’ into my room, beat the living shit out of him and make my escape.
Maybe I’d claim the toilet was plugged, then sucker punch him when he came in. I didn’t want to kill him but I wanted to hurt him. Badly. I wanted to put him in the hospital. Where did I pack those zip ties?
But San Pedro is at the ass end of a large lake and the odds of me detaining him long enough to make an escape were thin at best. Even if I’d had a helicopter, there was nowhere to land it.
Interestingly, that last night he knocked on my door and asked for the following day’s rent. I invited him into the room but he refused to enter and stood outside.
Predators have good instincts.
Earlier that day, I’d taken a ‘selfie’ of he and I together — I wanted his photo to pass around. He was always asking me to buy him a beer when I walked into the yard — they sold large bottles of Toñya. This last day I bought one and played nice (that took effort) and then quickly snapped the shot, pretending to be best friends.
You can tell from the photo that he wasn’t happy about it.
I waited until I had left the area to publish anything. A couple of people mentioned that it could all just be a setup to shake the gringo down for money — something I should have considered but didn’t. I truly hope that was the case — never thought I’d say that but the idea of a little girl forced into prostitution still enrages me.
Within a week, I had 15-20 people send me leads. I contacted everyone I could and shared the details and the photo. One of those passed my information along and I was contacted by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent at the US Embassy who asked me to call him.
He interviewed me for about twenty minutes, asking for more details. He said that the area was, indeed, a trafficking hub and that they had managed to assist in the arrest of a couple of people just last year. They have no official influence but they try to coordinate and work with other groups. They’re all doing good work.
When I explained that he’d said it both in Spanish and English, he said “Yeah, that’s hard to argue with”. Pedro spoke almost no English but this line was well-rehearsed.
His last question was “If someone your age and single went there, do you think he’d approach them?”
I had been at the hotel with a friend — we had separate rooms (I snore) but were always together. When she left one morning, Pedro knocked on my door that very night.
“Oh yeah, I don’t think he would waste time.” I explained how it had played out.
“That might be something we can work with. Let me talk to some people. Maybe we can set something up.”
It took them over a year of work just to bust one guy. And the truth is that Pedro is just a middleman — he’s like that guy who offers to sell you drugs in a bar. He didn’t make them — he just moves them. The hope is that they can catch him and maybe the girl can lead them to the ringleaders. Long odds.
But at least there is hope. And there are people out there trying to make a difference.
Thank you to everyone who helped and if anyone has more ideas, please contact me.
You can find the original post here:
So I Almost Murdered Someone Yesterday