Friday, November 7, 2008

Safety in Mexico Whether Tourist or Expatriate

I still say that Mexico makes sense. Even in scary and uncertain economic times, the American can and should make those vacation or expatriation plans they were thinking of when the American economy took its Great Nosedive this fall. Not only can you vacation in Mexico on the cheap, if you choose Central Mexico instead of the resorts, you can also live here if you come, as they say, as an empty cup and go as native as is possible. Am I talking about the American downgrading? Yes, indeed! It can be done for as little as a $1,000 USD a month for two people. But, you've got to change your living habits.

But, that's not what this story is about.

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard Americans writing in books, websites, forums, newsletters, or in polite company how wonderfully safe living or vacationing in Mexico is, I would be a wealthy man and would be living better than I am currently in Guanajuato, Mexico. This is a true phenomenon where Americans, and how they do this I have no idea, come to Mexico to do the tourist thing or to live, and come with this Concept of Mexico that it is the safest place on earth.

This gets more than few American tourists and expats in trouble. Attacks on Americans have happened even in smaller colonial cities as the result of risky behavior like walking at three in the morning in this paradise!

The most amazing quote, which I can't currently find in my files, was a woman who made the point in an online forum that because Mexico is a predominately Catholic country that the "types of crimes you see in the States never happen here…"

Others paint a picture of touring or visiting Mexico as being next to "Heaven on Earth", a "Paradise", a "place where dreams can come true."

In websites with titles like, "Retire in Luxury", you can read statements like,

"The people of Mexico routinely treat strangers with warmth and curiosity. The people here seem to have the ability to enjoy life, be more hospitable, more respectful of their fellow man. And it's not our money that makes everyone so friendly: the people are deeply steeped in a tradition of courtesy, culture, and kindness that goes back centuries...The people are almost always willing to stop whatever they are doing to be of assistance to a friend, a neighbor or a stranger. It seems they welcome any opportunity to be helpful. Isn't that the way life should be?"

My Lord, you've just got to ask what version of history this person has been reading.

And, this hype is so prevalent you could bet the farm of hearing it in almost every conversation you have with American tourists and expats.

The illusion (delusion) is so intense that you are held as a pariah if you dare suggestion anything other than an agreement with their Concept of Mexico. Reality is rarely embraced.

The Americans who live in Mexico: " the same misinformation, collectively support an illusion. There is always a gushy idealist, who won't hear one negative word about Mexico, rhapsodizing about how wonderful it all is - as indeed it is. People always resist having their illusions punctured."

The same information is always how wonderful it all is, how the crime we see in the States can't possibly happen here, and that life is just one big Fantasy Island where your wildest imaginations can and do come true. I've talked with Gringos who actually say things like, "Just another day in paradise."

Well, Mexico is not a paradise -
5-year-old boy in Mexico kidnapped, killed with acid injected into his heart

The Associated Press

Thursday, Nov 6, 2008
Posted on Tue, Nov. 04, 2008

MEXICO CITY — "Kidnappers grabbed a 5-year-old boy from a gritty Mexico City street market, then killed him by injecting acid into his heart — a new low even for Mexico’s brutal kidnapping gangs. The boy, Javier Morena, was the oldest son of a poor family that sold fruit at a market in the tough neighborhood of Iztapalapa, proof that the plague of kidnappings for ransom afflicts the working class as well as the wealthy."

Before the parents could have the chance to pay the ransom, before the kidnappers demanded it, actually, they killed this child.

I can hear the protestation now:

"But, that's in Mexico City!"

Don't you think there had to be a time when the citizens of Mexico City would not have believed something like this could happen in their city?

When the Michoacan Independence Day Terrorism happened, we went around to the merchants of Guanajuato in the area called Embajadora and asked what they thought of the attack on that fateful night. Everyone we asked said it "could never happen in the city of Guanajuato."

Every single one we interviewed lamented with us this horrid and tragic act of terrorism and yet none could believe it could happen "here". The truth pops bubbles, doesn't it? Read about Crime in Guanajuato.

Recently, in the even small city in the State of Guanajuato, Dolores Hidalgo, members of the Narco-Traffic band, La Familia, was caught and arrested for trying to extort "protection money" from local merchants. The same scene occurred in the city of Guanajuato in the Embajadora area just a couple of weeks ago. Some merchants decided to resist and inform the police. The scariest thing is history (and American action movies) is full of news stories of what the bad guys demanding "protection money" do to those who don't ante up to their evil demands.

The recent Cervantino Festival and the massive presence of army and federal police was a good example of "someone" believing being proactive is better that reacting to a possible attack.

So, why is Mexico still a good deal for touring or living here?

Choice. Don't choose the areas of Mexico to visit that would be spectacular targets for Narco-Terrorists to send a message to Mexico's (and the U.S.'s) government.

There are places to see and to scope out that are not a particular target and would be a waste of resources and effort to attack (Zacatecas, Saltillo, San Luis Potosi).

Just think of cities in the States that foreigners could judge all of America for as dangerous and not safe to visit. A dozen or so cities in America I would advise foreigners not to visit but other's I would highly recommend. But the potential foreign visitor to America has got to do their homework.

And, that's all I am saying. Be smart. Read the News! Ask around on forums. Confirm everything before launching your Mexican vacation or expat adventure. Avoid the tumultuous areas until, by God's grace, things settle down making it once again safe for Americans.

Safety? Is this a dream too? Perhaps, just maybe so!


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