A bunch of bad hombres, right? We’ve all heard what’s said about “dangerous” Mexico, at least in the United States.
Crime is rampant. The cartels control everything. It’s not a safe place to go. You shouldn’t leave your resort.
I heard and still hear all of this, often by people who haven’t even been to the country. And I think the same thing every time I listen to it.
This isn’t meant to downplay the seriousness of cartels and the violence involved with them. The Mexican cartels are a real source of fear and are a serious matter — for Mexicans and their families.
However, 99% of tourists who visit Mexico will not interact with the cartels or any of their members. Let me put it simply: the cartels do not care about you. Outside your money, they want nothing else. Foreigners, especially Americans, make up a lot of the demand that the cartels serve anyway.
And we all know the adage, don’t kill your customer. Or something like that, I think.
For example, in 2018, 67 Americans were victims of homicide in Mexico. This is an alarming number, as anyone being killed is worrisome.
However, you zoom out and see 36 million Americans visited Mexico that year, and this number doesn’t seem as intimidating.
The constant fearmongering by U.S. media gets us titles like “Mexico: Where More Americans Are Murdered Than In All Other Foreign Countries Combined.” It’s no wonder people form horrible opinions about the country.
Headlines like these leave out crucial details. First, Mexico is the largest tourist destination for Americans, and second — Canada — isn’t even close.
Second, it does not provide information about where the people were, nor any of the details surrounding their deaths.
Lastly, if this makes Mexico dangerous, Americans should not visit Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, or even Washington D.C., as they all had a higher homicide count than the one listed above. I am aware there are other forms of crime, but since that’s what the news focuses on we’ll use it, too.
But no one would ever propose not visiting those cities, including me. Those are all fantastic cities that you should visit!
We’re acutely aware in the U.S. that many of the homicides in those cities are related to gang violence.
But, so are the homicides in Mexico. It isn’t inherently more dangerous than any other place you would visit.
How do I know? I lived in three separate cities in Mexico during 2018.
Let me first make something clear about myself.
I rarely stay at resorts. I don’t go to many wealthier establishments (high-end restaurants, bars, and hotels). And I feel uncomfortable wearing something fancier than a t-shirt and a pair of shorts.
So, wearing a polo, slacks, and a pair of loafers isn’t exactly my thing, barring my entry to almost any classy establishment.
But I’m okay with that.
So, with that said, I want to make another thing clear. There was no point during my entire stay in Mexico that I felt unsafe.
It’s interesting, actually. As an American, you’re constantly told how bad Mexico is. Even if you don’t listen to the naysayers, you still have ideas floating around in your head.
These preconceptions dig their way into your head and plant themselves. And I’d be lying if they weren’t in my head as my girlfriend, her friend, Maria, and I landed in Mexico City.
We were flying into Mexico City but were headed north of the capital to a city called Queretaro. We would stay there for a month before Maria would head back to the States, and my girlfriend and I would carry on to Oaxaca and then on to Merida.
And we’d finish out 2018 by coming back to the United States to visit family — completely unscathed and not a bad experience to tell.
In fact, all we had was the opposite.
Mexicans whom we befriended. Funny stories about riding in the back of a pickup truck and getting to know an entire family with whom we shared the ride. And individuals who went out of their way to make us feel welcome.
My experience couldn’t have been more opposite to what you see in the headlines.
I understand this is anecdotal, and can’t blame you if you’re skeptical. Seeing people being killed and the never-ending series of cartel bosses that pop up on the news is hard to ignore.
However, the overwhelming majority of people killed in those news stories are other cartel members. And much of the violence is centered in areas close to the border, where the cartels hold power.
As a tourist, there’s a simple solution: don’t go to those areas.
There are parts of American cities that I avoid because it’s not safe. So, it’s only natural to apply the same logic to other areas I visit.
You look at the homicide rates of places like Colima, Baja California, or Chihuahua, and you shudder.
Yet, places like Aguascalientes, Campeche, Queretaro, and Yucatán are safer than many cities in the U.S.
In fact, Baltimore has a higher homicide rate than all but four of the 32 Mexican states. And I’ve visited Baltimore many times, and never felt unsafe.
The point is that there are problem areas everywhere.
Sadly, the ones that it affects most are the families who live in the communities. Local families lose loved ones who happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. And they have to live in constant fear simply because they live in a community controlled by a cartel.
Tourists, who don’t often visit these places, go unaffected.
If this weren’t the case, 97 million people (almost half coming from the U.S.) wouldn’t have visited Mexico in 2019.
By listening to the negative press calling it “dangerous Mexico”, you’re missing out on a country that offers one of the most delicious cuisines in the world that we attempt (often poorly) to replicate around the globe.
There’s a rich and unique history involving one of the most extraordinary civilizations the world has ever seen, with the ruins left to prove it.
And a colorful and vibrant culture celebrates the beauty of life, even when they’re remembering the dead.
There’s too much in the country to miss out on because of hot takes from talking heads that don’t know about your community, let alone one in Mexico.
The only bonus to the personalities on TV is they free up the best parts of the country for the rest of us. And I’m not going to let a negative opinion stop me from visiting all of ’em.