Tag Archives: drugs

Sensationalism at it’s worst?

19 Mar

 

Well it’s that time of year again when the neighbourhood starts to break up. Folks have to start heading home now for a variety of reasons, some for jobs, some for taxes, some for doctors appointments. The reasons are as varied as the folks who live here all winter long.

 

Of course, few leave without a send off of some sort or another and it’s always a damn good reason for having a potluck.

 

The last get together we had, the conversation rolled around to Sirius Radio and a news report that was heard on a Canadian station. The same folks then viewed a similar program on BCTV. (Yes, some of us have satellite TV down here). The stories were about how dangerous it is to travel in Mexico!

 

This prompted a great deal of hilarity around the campfire. None of us have EVER had any problems down here, except for the occasional, minor pilfering. No violence, no hold-ups, no kidnappings, no drugs, no guns, and there are people who have been coming to this area for over 30 years. Oh sure, we’ve all heard the stories about somebody’s friends cousins girlfriend, who was held up at a blockade on the highway by gun wielding drug runners who stole everything including their car. Try as we might though, none of us have ever been able to find a single person who has experienced this first hand and every year we hear the exact same story only the location changes.

 

Any excuse for a party. Eat drink and BS

As we sat around talking about this, all of us had stories to share of the exact opposite treatment. There was not one of us on the beach that didn’t have an anecdote, about some Mexican going way out of their way to be helpful. For example, we often stop on the side of the highway for coffee and more than once, we’ve had locals stop and ask if we were okay, and did we need mechanical help?

 

We stopped in a very small agricultural town a couple of years ago, far off the beaten track. We discovered they had beautiful gardens so we drove down every street admiring them. At one point an old farmer in his beat up old truck passed us. About half an hour later, when we’d pulled over to have a cup of coffee, the same truck pulled up in front of us, now with 3 people in it. One got out, came to our window and in halting English asked us if we were okay, were we lost. We explained how we had come to their lovely little town, and that we were just having a cup of coffee before heading off, but we thanked him for his enquiry. It seems that the old farmer was concerned that we were lost and so he drove around the town until he found someone who could speak English well enough to converse with us and make sure we were alright!

 

 

We added another little tidbit to the conversation. Recently my father-in-law who also lives near here in the winter needed to go to a bigger town for mechanical help and parts. So off he and Richard went with only an address in hand to Constitution about 100 kilometers away. Needless to say, they couldn’t find the place, so they pulled in to a Frenomex, (which is equivalent to a big chain brake shop at home). The manager spoke English and tried to explain where to go. Realizing that neither of them were familiar with Constitution, he got in his own car and drove them to where the mechanics shop was, then took them to the parts store and refused all offers of recompense.

 

The stories shared that night by more than 30 of us were very similar. All of us have had experiences where complete strangers have gone out of their way to be helpful to the Gringos.

 

We all think there must be some sort of media conspiracy to stop travellers from going to Mexico, especially since there’s hardly a week that goes by that the headlines aren’t blaring about some Canadian or American that’s been beaten, robbed or murdered in Mexico.

 

Okay, yes these things have happened, but they almost always happen in either border towns or big tourist areas, or to someone doing something they shouldn’t have been, or hanging with the wrong kind of people. That’s not to say that murder doesn’t happen in Mexico, it most certainly does, and some of it is pretty horrific, but mostly it’s Mexican on Mexican and is directly related to the drug trade, with the vast majority of it being rival gangs fighting for control, and sometimes innocent bystanders are the unintended victims.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I know enough not to go to border towns for my holidays. If there’s going to be violence, it’s going to be there, especially since border towns the world over are primary smuggling areas, and where there’s smuggling, there’s big money and where there’s big money, there’s violence.

 

I also don’t go to tourist meccas. Anyone with a criminal bent knows that there are going to be tourists with lots of money doing stupid things. Tourists seem to think that if there are many other tourists around, it’s a safe place, so they can get roaring drunk, buy drugs, get into fights and do all sorts of dumb things and nothing bad will happen to them.

 

Now, that said, the media play up every criminal act that happens in Mexico but when was the last time you heard about a tourist having problems in New Orleans? Bet you haven’t, yet many Americans, have told me if I go there to stay away from specific, well-known touristy areas. It seems the bad folk there know that drunken tourists in unfamiliar places make easy marks and being robbed or killed is a fairly common happenstance.

 

I grew up in Vancouver, and it’s a beautiful city, but I don’t travel in the Downtown East side at night there. I’m not interested in hanging around areas that are frequented by gangs either and since the worst gang problems mainly relating to the drug trade in Vancouver are mostly centered in the bucolic suburbs of Surrey, intelligence tells me to stay the hell away from there, especially at night.

 

Talk to Californians, those who live near Los Angeles and they’ll tell you it has a major gang problem and can be a deadly place to go for a walk if you wander into the wrong neighbourhoods, especially if you happen to be wearing the colours of a rival gang. Accidental death by drive-by shooting is a fairly regular occurrence.

 

I’m sure if I looked at statistics, I’d find that just about every tourist area the world over has a an ugly underbelly, yet only Mexico seems to be the country held out as an extremely dangerous place to go on holiday. I can’t tell you why; maybe it has to do with money, ideology, politics or any combination thereof.

 

Maybe your idea of a Mexican vacation is to hang around a large tourist area like Cabo San Lucas, for a week, hoping from crappy bar to crappy bar, drunk out of your mind, being loud and obnoxious and flashing a wad of cash. Or perhaps you’re looking for a little drug and hooker action in places like Tijuana or Mexicali. Chances are if either of these is your idea of a good time, it won’t matter where you are, trouble is going to find you, and it won’t be pretty.

 

What I do know is, if you come to the Baja to visit the little villages, hamlets, towns and beaches, see the sights, take a few photos and enjoy eating some of the local cuisine, you won’t need to worry about any of those things. Of course from the point of view of those of us in the know, the more people afraid to travel to Mexico, the less crowded the beaches will stay.

Hmm, maybe you should listen to those newscasts….

 

 

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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.