Safety In Mexico - A Rational Discussion

Mexico Is Safer Than You Think

Is Mexico safe? Short answer - for the most part, yes, Mexico is safe. Is anywhere safe these days? I read about a "wilding" in Manhattan where groups of men (gangs?) went on a rampage, assaulting people, shooting and breaking windows. Is New York City safe? Don't even get me started on the murder rate in the USA.

I spend way too much time answering e-mails about, Is Mexico safe? Save the stamp and read the rest of this page. I won't answer such emails anymore. READ and then decide for yourself.

I am not going to keep repeating myself so that those of you who don't read the whole site ask if things are safe NOW. Yes, they are.

In an interview with msnbc.com, Pablo Weisz, a security manager for the Americas for International SOS, said in 2012, "If we’re to talk about Mexico in general," Weisz said, "the risks to travelers have not changed that much." Of the 107 American deaths [in 2011], Weisz said he believes many of them were Mexican-Americans involved in the drug trade.

There are some areas of Mexico that I suggest you avoid, but not many. Just because there is trouble in Veracruz city, that does not mean Catemaco is dangerous. And so on. My road logs and maps are specific. I drive between 4,000 and 7,000 miles each year over the entire country and wouldn't do that if I honestly believe driving in Mexico is not safe.

Here is an actual comment from a woman who drove alone from Michigan to Barra de Navidad:

"I hope that other people will realize that it is safe to drive in this country. Your maps and directions were very clear and accurate and were a HUGE help, especially in Guad.

All the people I encountered were very friendly and helpful. The only "scary"/drug-related thing I saw was in Texas, where several State Troopers were dismantling two cars by the side of the road." - "Barra" Mary.

And yes, this was written and revised at the end of 2011. The quotes were taken at the height of the "Mexico is dangerous" rhetoric and is as true today as they were then. I just got tired of reading the hyperbole. Read what has been said by people who really know what is going on and decide to believe them (and me) or not. But please, don't waste my time arguing. If you want to believe the worst and not go to Mexico - then don't go. But if you have an open mind and can listen to reason, read on.

The U.S. State Department issued the following advisory. Note that it is a travel advisory, not a travel warning. Big difference. And for those of you too young to remember, the State Department had advisories out during most of my travel-writing career in the 1980's and early 1990's. I don't seem to be any the worse for wear.

Yes, stuff happens. Yes, bad stuff happens. I live on the border and probably hear more news than you do. And I know I do not hear it all. What the statistics do not tell is that the average American or Canadian tourist is very, very unlikely to be in danger. As one consular official said, "I cannot guarantee my own safety if i visit New York City if I am not aware of my surroundings."

So, yes, read the news stories, but take them in context. Travel smart. Avoid convoys of black Suburbans. If you own a newer black Suburban, take another vehicle to Mexico.

The last line of this travel advisory below states that 2 resident American citizens were abducted. True. But you are unlikely to fit the profile of an abductee. One of those "American citizens" who was abducted was a security expert who was in town to teach businessmen in Saltillo how to avoid being kidnapped. The other I do not know about. And a resident is not a tourist. Big difference.

This came out March 14, 2010.

While millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year (including tens of thousands who cross the land border daily for study, tourism or business and nearly one million U.S. citizens who live in Mexico), violence in the country has increased. It is imperative that U.S. citizens understand the risks in Mexico, how best to avoid dangerous situations, and who to contact if victimized. Common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where prostitution and drug dealing might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable.

Recent violent attacks have prompted the U.S. Embassy to urge U.S. citizens to delay unnecessary travel to parts of Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua states(see details below) and advise U.S. citizens residing or traveling in those areas to exercise extreme caution. Drug cartels and associated criminal elements have retaliated violently against individuals who speak out against them or whom they otherwise view as a threat to their organizations. (Bolding mine). These attacks include the abduction and murder of two resident U.S. citizens in Chihuahua.

Remember too, that when reports of "American citizens" being killed, that does not necessarily mean somebody like you or me. Many times these Americans are visiting family in Mexico. They are involved in the local community. They are not travelers on the highway to Puerto Vallarta or Tamazunchale.

If you are not involved in drugs (using them counts too) or arms trafficking (many, but not all weapons used by drug gangs are bought by 'good' American citizens with clean police records who take them across the border or sell them to smugglers who drive them to Mexico) and don't plan on vacationing in beautiful downtown Cd. Juarez, Tijuana or other border towns, then you are more likely to be shot at a Wal-Mart, a church or your place of work than to have trouble in Mexico.

Before those of you who are convinced that is not the truth and hit send on the vituperative e-mails you are composing, listen to the US Homeland Security attaché to Mexico:

Further, the Homeland Security Department's attaché to Mexico said the violence in Mexico is not as dangerous to U.S. tourists as has been portrayed.

Alonzo Pena said the violence is in isolated areas of the country and only affects the people involved in criminal activity. He said the violence is not affecting U.S. citizens visiting Mexico and Americans should not cancel their vacations in the country.
- The Associated Press, Thurs., March. 12, 2009.