Crazy by name, crazy by nature…
In the middle of Bolivia’s capital city, La Paz, you’ll stumble across San Pedro Prison. Directly opposite the prison, everyday at 1pm, you’ll find the infamous Crazy Dave.
Everyone is welcomed by Crazy Dave for ‘free’ to engage with him as he recounts his life story. All about how he, an American man, ended up in prison in Bolivia. He doesn’t hold back when exclaiming what his life was like in America, how he landed in prison and life on the inside.
I’ll tell you all that we learnt about the man himself…
Originally from New York, Crazy Dave was married with two children. To keep the family afloat, he worked himself to the bone at 2 different jobs. His addiction to drugs intensified, landing himself with a divorce and living in a drug den with a gang. After going missing for 2 weeks, the ‘boss’ wasn’t best pleased, offering Crazy Dave an ultermatum. He either cough up 30k or headed to Bolivia to retrieve 8.5 kg of cocaine. Not much of a choice for poor Crazy Dave, an unemployed drug addict… so off to Bolivia he went.
As expected, Crazy Dave got caught at the American borders with the cocaine and sent back to La Paz. He was sentanced to 16 years in San Pedro prison and served over 14 of those years.
Inside the prison
From Dave’s account, San Pedro prison sounds like something straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster. When sentanced, you have to pay to enter, pay for your cell and you’ve got to get yourself an inside job. If you have family on the outside, there’s no chance you’ll miss them as you’re allowed to have them live with you, this included children up to 18 years of age.
Dave explained that in the first year of his sentance, he was strongly disliked by most inmates and guards. This is evident by the golf ball sized lump on one of his elbows where he illedges he got attacked by guards and his elbow broken.
As mentioned earlier, in San Pedro, you’ve gotta work. Dave explained that this could be a number of various jobs. These varied from cleaning to cooking up cocaine in the many designated kitchens inside the prison. He explained how he worked in said kicthens, as well as being a tour guide for the illegal tourist tours that took place inside the working prison. Occationally, these tours went catastrofically wrong, resulting in tourists having to stay inside the prison for longer than the tour promised and bribing people to get out again.
The tours finally ended after a Bolivian journalist ran a story on the tours after witnessing them from a window in a neighbouring hotel room… busted. Apparently the journalist has since gone into hiding due to being hunted down because of the story.
During Dave’s performance
It started in the square, where he told us to take a seat on the floor near a tree whilst he started his story. There’s no denying he was a great storyteller and had us all encaptualated within minutes. When he got onto recounting his time in San Pedro, he led us opposite the prison on the other side of the road.
Whilst telling us his tales of the inside, I noticed the outside guards getting a little twitchy and looking over at Dave. The next thing we knew, he was being dragged into the prison by two guards. This caused a bit of a scene and bringing a lot of attention to us tourists. It was worrying, so the group decided to split and wait inside the plaza incase more guards came out. We didn’t have to wait long, as we heard Dave reappearing from the prison absolutely seething. Without thinking, we started to wonder off as it was clear the tour was over, but Dave re-gathered us and continued his story.
He explained that there’s a new head guard working within the prison and he was keen to meet Dave, rough him up a bit.
We’d heard that it’s best to tip Dave with a food offering, rather than cash, with some groups taking him to a shop and paying for a small food shop. This is because Dave still apparently has a serious cocaine addiction. With everything that happened, everyone handed him some cash and he was quick to walk away.
What’s next for Crazy Dave?
It’s hard to say, really. The likelihood of him being deported back to America is pretty bleak. He´s concerned he’d be sent back to prison to finish his drug smuggling sentance. It seems that he’d only get anywhere with a good amount of money behind him, but that seems just as unlikely with his lack of employment.
All in all, Dave may be crazy, but can you blame him? He’s had it rough and will continue to likely for the rest of his life, unfortunately. He was a nice man, with a nact for performance, so it was an entertaining hour to say the least. I wish the man the best of luck.
If you liked this post, be sure to check out a couple of my other South America related posts here x