AREN’T YOU AFRAID?

9 Mar

In February of 2006, my eldest daughter and I decided to go to Playa del Carmen and stay at a 4 star hotel for 2 weeks. While we were there, a couple were murdered in their room. From that moment on we have constantly been asked the same question about going to Mexico, “Aren’t you afraid?” The answer is NO!

Punta Arena Beach, just south of La Paz

We are constantly amazed at the coverage any crime involving foreigners that occurs in Mexico, is given in the American and Canadian press. The way the news is slanted makes it seems as if these things never happen anywhere but in Mexico and that no sane person would ever voluntarily go there.

 
Mexico has an economic problem. It’s a third world country, where the average monthly wage, before the recession was $130.00 US. Now, chances are many are either not working, or if they are, they are probably being paid much less, if at all. Many Mexicans we have talked to this winter have told us they haven’t received a wage in months, but are afraid to quit. If they do, they may not be able to find another job, but if they stick with what they have, they may eventually get some of the money owed them.

A piece of black coral left behind by the tide.

When physical violence happens here, it generally occurs in large border towns as these are Drug distribution centres. Drugs are moved to them and then across the border into the US because Americans are the drug cartels biggest customers.  Don’t kid yourself about making the border leakproof. There are always ways to get people and products across any border and the harder it becomes, the more valuable the product when you DO get it across and money is what it’s all about! The violence happens either when gangs fight over turf, or try to protect their empires from those who would bring them down. They kill each other, those they believe threaten them and anyone who gets caught in the cross fire.

 

When the US and Canadian press get hold of these stories they write them as if no one is ever murdered in their countries, there are no gangs, no drugs and all is sweetness and light there. All you have to do is read the Los Angeles Times or the Vancouver Sun to know that’s a huge crock of BS. I’m not sure why the news is slanted the way it is at home, but to us it sure seems as if it’s simply to scare people and it works beautifully. People are afraid to come to Mexico.

 
The only place any major problems have occurred in Baja is in Tijuana, just across the California border. Sure, there’s been the occasional violent crime committed in Cabo san Lucas and La Paz, but certainly, considering the number of tourists that visit those cities every year, it’s nowhere near the number that happens in say, Las Vegas, or Niagara Falls, but you’d never know that from the news reports would you?

 
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is crime here, even on our lovely beach. Last year an old rug and 2 broken lawn chairs went missing and this year just before we arrived, an old 10HP boat motor was stolen. Last month during the full moon, an attempt was made, 2 nights in a row, by the same men, to steal a 90HP boat motor, but was foiled by the vigilance and sleeplessness of one of the campers. Last night an unattended and unlocked boat trailer was pinched. These are crimes of desperation as the recession has hit very hard here and unlike the rest of North American the economy is not rebounding, there’s little work and the tourist industry is in the tank, both because of the economic slowdown and, of course, fear.

 
When these very poor locals see the things that many of the campers bring down with them, they assume we are wealthy and won’t miss a few odds and ends or can easily afford to replace those items that go missing. The local police don’t help matters since many of those responsible for the crimes are related to some of the constabulary. Down here family is everything, and the policemen are very unlikely to arrest and prosecute a relative. Plus many Anglos here, especially Americans, seem to forget that this is a foreign country, with different laws and legal system. There isn’t the vast network of police and security available to protect the individuals and their property like there is in Canada and the US, so we all have to take responsibility for our own protection.

 
Some of the Anglos here exasperate the problem by flaunting their obvious wealth, living in fancy, expensive homes, in villages where the locals live in 2 or 3 room shacks, with little or nothing in the way of what we call necessities. Down here a refrigerator is a luxury! These people always seem to have an amazing assortment of cars, trucks, Quads, boats and other toys laid out and displayed for all to see. They live down here because it’s cheap and with a  relatively small income from the US or Canada, can live pretty high on the hog. When their belongings go missing, they go berserk, loudly disparage any and all things Mexican. Though when asked if they would show strangers all the money in their wallets or leave all their belongings unlocked and on display in their home country, the answer is usually a much more subdued, “Well, no. I thought it was safe here!” No different here than it is at home folks!

 
I should also add that the local Mexicans are not responsible for everything that goes missing. There are certainly a few light fingered Anglos in the crowd and many have no qualms about purchasing obviously stolen items for cheap.

 
So, when we get asked the question by all those who believe the newspaper headlines, we tell them that we feel no more afraid to travel to Baja than we would travelling in our own country. If we stay out of problem areas, like the Vancouver Downtown Eastside, or Tijuana, the chances of anything bad happening to us, are slim. If we don’t go around flaunting what little wealth we have, which we  wouldn’t do at home, let alone while travelling, we won’t draw any unwanted attention.  Truth be told, one look at ol’ Grummy and no one would ever assume we had anything worth stealing.

A small island off Agua Verde a beautiful beach just south of us.

This is an absolutely beautiful area full of gorgeous views, awe inspiring vistas and warm and friendly people. Sure there’s a few bad apples in the bunch, but with a little common sense, you can be as safe and comfortable here as you are in your own home.

 
If the headlines make you afraid to travel, then don’t!  The less folks on the road, the more room there is for those of us who want to know where it goes.

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