I watched a protection detail ride past yesterday. Four police motorcycles, a large client SUV and a police trail SUV. I wondered which vehicle the client was in; it was pretty obvious. My thought was that this was simply the appearance of security and had nothing to do with actually providing or achieving security. The detail would have been better off dropping the police escort and letting the VIP drive around the city in his unmarked SUV.
Similarly, everywhere you look in San Salvador are uniformed static security guards armed with ill-cared for shotguns. Even a casual observer could discern again, that the guards are only for appearance sake and have no effective use. Unfortunately this is all-to common in Latin America, it is better to have the appearance of something, such as security, than actually achieving it. My previous post on ambulances is another example of the same concept.
The concept of appearance can be extrapolated and used to explain many of the social and cultural aspects of Latin America. Another example is the appearance of wealth. A long time ago I lived in Santiago, Chile, and not far from my house was a massive grocery store with unspeakably expensive items imported from all over the world. Each Saturday countless woman would shop the aisles filling their carts with the most extravagant items. They would then stop off at the coffee bar in the middle of the store to chat with their neighbors about the parties they planned to throw and peer into each others baskets. At the end of the day they would leave the basket in the aisle and slink out of the store unnoticed by their friends, being totally incapable of purchasing any of the items they had selected.