Before I made the decision to live in Mexico full-time as a travel writer, friends and co-workers who knew I frequented Mexico often would often ask the question. “Is traveling to Mexico safe? I hear it’s really dangerous down there!”
While reading a really great blog entry on LocoGringo.com, I began to reflect again on that question I’ve been asked so many times.
Is traveling to Mexico Safe?
And I’d repeat the same facts I’d conveyed hundreds of times before, seeking to reassure them, that travel in Mexico is, for the most part, completely safe.
Having worked in television and radio for years, I can tell you first-hand that the adage, “If it bleeds, it leads” is the mindset in the media industry. Over the past few years, it seems that western media has turned a blind eye away from problems in their own communities and country, and decided to focus on Mexico as some sort of dangerous badland where banditos lurk around every corner, waiting to rob you. Talking heads and writers who’ve likely never even set foot in this country will tell you with a matter-of-fact attitude and look of concern that cartel violence is everywhere here.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Look, I’ve been traveling to Mexico for 25 years. Longer than that, if you include the trips to Juarez and Monterrey with my parents and family when I was very young.
At the very ripe age of eight years, I remember sitting with my dad and uncle at a bullfight in Juarez, as they drank Modelos and cheered for the bull. I vividly recall the looks we were getting from the locals as Dad and uncle J.D. shouted, “Viva toro!!!”
It didn’t earn us any bonus points, but suffice it to say, we didn’t die that day.
I’ve encountered exactly two instances of corruption here in Mexico, neither of which were life-threatening. One involved a motorcycle cop on a road trip south of Tulum who was simply looking for a little beer money. The other was at a Pemex gas station north of Queretaro, where the price-per-liter magically changed, courtesy of a pump attendant. In both instances, I simply noticed and questioned both individuals, and the problem pretty much disappeared.
Compare that to the cop in any-state USA who busts you for doing 3 mph over the ridiculously-low speed limit and hauls you to court to pay a fine of US $250 or more.
Rules of the road. The world is big and beautiful, and while there are bad people in some places, they are eclipsed by the litany of good people you will find in most places. To be a traveler is to be prepared for both types.
Contrast that with places in downtown Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. I’ve never felt unsafe here in Mexico. When I made the decision to move here, I drove from Texas to Quintana Roo, and many times had to mentally remind myself I was driving through Mexico. The roads are modern, the people are friendly, and the food is top-notch. A few nights ago, I strung up a hammock and slept outside in the yard to the sound of palm fronds blowing in an evening tropical breeze.
As a good friend recently told me, if you want to stay out of trouble, stay away from hookers and blow, and the places where both can be bought.