Lost in Mexico by Ingeborg Topsoe

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 25-26 March 2013
Rachel (Olivia Darnley) and Sally (Lucy May Barker) are on holiday in Mexico.  They make a false claim to the police that they have been robbed of a camera by a local gang, in the hope of a substantial insurance payout, but discover to their cost that the Mexicans are not quite as gullible as they had first assumed.  Imprisoned and tried for their crimes, they are then sucked into the kind of worlds they had never experienced; prison life, a Mexican charity, and the world of spurious publicity fuelled by the British media.
Recorded live in Mexico, John Dryden's production highlighted the inbuilt arrogance of many westerners abroad, who assume some kind of superiority to the people around them and suffer as a result.  When they do get into trouble, they respond not by admitting their guilt but rather offering a series of lame jusifications for their actions in the past and the future ("it was only for a laugh," "I didn't know this was happening ...," "I'm only a tourist and I have to catch a plane.")
At the same time the play suggests how such incidents are magnified out of all proportion by the media, especially when cross-cultural issues are involved.  Rachel's and Sally's actions are transformed into a human interest story involving "plucky" Brits and "evil" others.  By concentrating on such simply oppositions, the newspapers wilfully blind themselves to the real story of contemporary urban life in which youngsters have to try to fend for themselves in a dog-eat-dog world dominated by indifference.  The girls try to help out, but discover to their cost that they are mere pawns in a society dominated by cruelty and violence.
While the story is a familiar one, it is nonetheless worth retelling, if only to make listeners aware of the importance of acknowledging differences in attitudes across cultures.  At the same time we should use that experience to help others, not simply reject them or consider them our moral, social or intellectual inferiors.