Saturday, March 7, 2009

Is Mexico Safe?

We received an email from Bob and Moni, my in laws, advising us to get out of Mexico as soon as possible. Apparently, our state department has issued a travel alert, advising Americans to stay out of Mexico, especially the border towns.

“It sounds like the wild west,” my own father tells me.

Tim responded to his parents a bit flippantly reminding them that when he was young they lived in India at a time when the country was not deemed safe but they were there anyway.

Our travels in Mexico this past six months have been peaceful, exquisite and removed from the drug wars. We’ve for the most part avoided the big cities (even though I’m writing this from Acapulco), not because of the drug terrorism, but because we like the smaller towns. We’ve enjoyed the hospitality, the people and the laid back pace of this flavorful country. Moreover, the dollar is at an all time high - 15 pesos to the dollar - so living is relatively inexpensive.

Just after receiving Bob’s email, we befriended a family of five that lives in Mexico City, but was vacationing at the Acapulco Yacht Club for the weekend. Mexico City has been dangerous forever, but I wanted to know whether life for them was more dangerous than before? “How is it in Mexico City?” I asked the parents.
They responded that “It’s bad, both with the economy and the drug wars. You don’t have to worry when you’re in the small towns, but it’s in the big cities that you have to be careful.”

And what do they do differently?

“Don’t give too much information to people about yourselves,” they advised. “Here, at the yacht club you don’t have to worry, but when you’re outside stay on guard.” One of their family members was kidnapped, but fortunately returned. Their perspective of the drug wars was two-fold: the drug lords want to keep the country feeling insecure so the government will change its current policy of trying to capture and contain the drug traffickers. They, the drug cartels, want the police to turn a blind eye and let them continue with their business. Secondly, the drug lords argue that the Mexicans aren’t consuming the drugs, so it doesn’t hurt them. It’s really the problem of the consumer and most of that comes from users in the United States.

And since, the Mexican father explains, the government isn’t changing its crackdown policies, the drug leaders want to terrorize the population with fear, especially through kidnappings and killings. Today, the situation has evolved into a war between the police and the drug cartels.

So, fortunately, we’ve avoided all of the above and have had an exceptional time meandering our way down the coast of Mexico. If anyone is planning on coming down, and we highly encourage you, just stick to the wonderful beach towns. As Tim told his parents, “It’s much more dangerous in New York City than the places we’ve been in Mexico.”

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