Mexico is NOT a war zone
Posted by Tony & Cheri on September 7, 2010
By now you have probably heard the news: eight people killed this week in a fire bombing of a bar in Cancun Mexico. You probably first saw the headlines of a “Bar Bombed in the Popular Resort Town of Cancun.” Of course the immediate reaction was to imagine drug terrorists throwing bombs into a crowded hotel lobby bar as tourists in bathing suits were blown to bits. However the truth turned out to be something different.
Eventually, after the initial “Mexico is a war zone” reporting, the facts began to come out: The “bombs” were not explosives but rather gasoline filled bottles used to burn the building down. The bar was not a tourist bar. In fact it was miles from the resort zone on the outskirts of the large city of Cancun (the resort zone is on a peninsula, technically an island, separated from the larger city). The bar was owned by a figure with criminal ties, and it appears the arson was in retaliation against him. The “bar” was actually a ramshackle wooden building which housed a “full service” topless bar. The unfortunate victims were employees who succumbed to smoke inhalation.
It wasn’t an attack on tourists or anywhere near the tourist zone. Yet we have been overwhelmed with comments on the internet about how the drug war is “creeping closer” to the Riviera Maya tourist zones and, “it is just a matter of time before the drug cartels start killing tourists.” Pardon our French…but that is crap.
The facts are pretty simple:
1. The drug wars in northern central Mexico are mostly about control of the drug cartel’s smuggling routes across the joint US/Mexico border. Here in Mexico’s Caribbean coast known as the Rivera Maya (the area between Cancun and Tulum, including Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos, Akumal, etc.) there is no border with the US and so the drug war violence has never really extended to this part of Mexico.
2. Yes there is crime here, just as there is crime everywhere. The murders and arson of this Cancun bar are perfect examples. However murders related to drug gang activity take place in the US in almost every state of the union. In the past 30 days the Department of Justice news clearinghouse shows gang-related murders and criminal activity in California, Missouri, New York, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee, New Jersey, Utah, Oregon…the list goes on and on. Drug gang crime is on the rise in the US, too, not just in Mexico.
3. The reality is that Cancun has a crime rate less than the entire state of Montana…and Playa del Carmen has a crime rate less than that of Cancun. In a modern world any urban area has criminal activity…but our part of the world certainly has less than most and is undeserving of the label of “dangerous.”
However the facts don’t seem to matter anymore. Without a doubt any major crime in this part of Mexico will be broadcast through the US and Canada as a proof positive that Mexico is dangerous, that the drug war has spread across this country and that you are risking your life by coming here. It isn’t true of course but it serves a purpose. It sensationalizes the news, and that helps sell newspapers and makes people turn on the TV. More importantly it fosters the fear of “others.” It tells people to be safe, stay home and distrust anybody not like “us.” And that is working. Click on any major newspaper or TV news station website that reports on Mexico. Now read the comments left by the public…hateful, racist, angry, bitter comments about a country and a people of which few of these posters have any first hand knowledge. It disgusts us.
People have every right to be concerned and to ask questions. People should investigate to ensure they really are going to be safe if they venture across the border. But people shouldn’t fall back on easy answers, fearful conjecture or racism. Mexico is being used as a media scapegoat and as an appeal to the worst attitudes of many people in the US. And that’s simply unfair to the wonderful people of this beautiful country.
We don’t know what to do about this, other than to keep on doing what we have been doing…telling the truth. The Caribbean coastline of Mexico offers no more danger than your own hometown. It is beautiful and safe. Now wouldn’t it be nice if someone would make that into a breaking news headline!
BTW, to hear about the reality and safety of life in Mexico in words much better than we could ever put together, click here for an article by the wondrous Linda Ellerbee.
Read our most current blog entry about safety:
Safety in Playa del Carmen Mexico ~ 2012
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