Today’s topic: Safety in México
Off and on, I participate in the TripAdvisor forum for Mazatlán. You can bet that, at least once a month, someone will ask how safe Mazatlán (or México in general) is. They’ve ‘heard’ this, or ‘read’ that, and are concerned.
My response is blunt and to the point. There’s crime here. There’s violent crime here. Can your tour van be pulled over by thugs and everyone on board robbed? YES. It’s happened. Can cartel members have a shoot out and tourists get caught in the crossfire? YES. It’s happened. Can a guest at a resort be beaten mercilessly in the elevator of their hotel (and likely by someone they knew, not the person who was arrested)? YES. It’s happened. Does the government of the United States of America publish notices warning people not to go to certain areas of México, or if they do to stay in a very limited area? YES. They do.
I can’t tell you how many people get upset with me when I say this. They’d rather I tow the line and tell people they’ll be fine! Come on down! The water’s warm and the drinks are cold! You’ll be perfectly safe! NO. You may not be.
It’s all about perspective, and asking the right questions. I know of no cities, NONE, that are completely safe. Crime is a fact of life. For a moment pretend that the city you hail from is someplace you’re thinking of visiting. Make a Google search for ‘violent crime in [your city]’. Is your city safe? No? Yet you LIVE there. You aren’t just visiting, you actually LIVE in a city with violent crime! And you aren’t concerned? You actually go out AT NIGHT? You must have a huge pair of cojones!
Perspective is knowing you can’t escape crime, but your common sense can minimize its impact on your life. Perspective is realizing that, for the most part, cartels are not targeting tourists – IT’S BAD FOR BUSINESS. Very bad. Violent crime in México is mainly between cartels and those who interact with them. Are you buying/selling drugs? No? Ok, they likely have no reason to target you. In the USA crime is random. You can be gunned down at school, or in a movie theatre. Planes can fly into your place of business. A druggie high on crack can knife you for your pretty phone. It’s a crap shoot – yet you feel reasonably safe. Safe enough to carry on your daily routines, interacting with others and being one with the world.
Perspective is knowing that out of hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit a destination, it’s unlikely you’re going to be the one who becomes a victim of crime. Not impossible; but highly unlikely.
And the question you should be asking before you visit someplace new is, “Where should I NOT go, and what should I NOT do while I’m in [insert city here]?”. Were I visiting Seattle I definitely wouldn’t want to be in either Pioneer Square or Belltown at night because those areas have a much higher crime rate. In Mazatlán I don’t go to industrial areas at night; and I am wary of walking through the cuidad perdida (it says something when the cops won’t go there), even during the day.
The bottom line is this; if you don’t feel safe going someplace then don’t go there. Go someplace that makes you happy, not someplace where you are constantly worrying. Is your fear based in reality? Nope. Does that change the fact you’re afraid and not having a great vacation? No. Life is too short not to enjoy it.