The U.S. Department of State issued a Mexico Travel Advisory for Baja California Sur, Mexico and Why This Expat Cares.
If you stopped to read this post because you want to reinforce your fears of travel in Baja Mexico then stop reading and stay home. I won’t try to change your mind.
The U. S. Department of State issued a strong Mexico travel advisory this week for the entire state of Baja Sur after three more people were killed in a popular tourist area, Palmillo Beach, between San Jose Del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas in broad daylight. You can read all of the Mexican travel advisories here.
These sensational killings fuel the fear in the fearful and play into the newly popular anti-Mexican sentiments. If you want to be afraid then I can’t help you. Fear is fear.
My family is afraid. I can’t remember a family or neighborhood gathering where I didn’t get warned about the dangers of living in Baja.
“Have you seen the Mexico travel advisory?” My prepared answer is, “I’m more afraid when I lay over in Southern California on the drive down to Baja than I am in Mexico.”
I ask them, “Have you seen the number of killings in So. Cal.? Reno?”
There have been over 600 homicides in LA County this year. There were 3 homicides within 5 days in Reno, Nevada where I live part-time, this June.
The U. S. allows anyone and everyone to carry a gun these days and mass shootings of innocent people are all too common, even in small safe towns, my small hometown of Carson City, Nevada had a random mass shooting at a Denny’s. I once felt safe there. I am honestly more afraid of dying from gun fire in the U. S. than I am in Baja, Mexico.
The homicides per capita are high in Baja and the number of homicides in Baja Sur has quadrupled this year compared to last year. The LA Times reported that there have been 232 homicides in Baja Sur this year. These are facts, that I can’t argue against.
I’ve seen the increase in killings and watched the impact on my community. I’m a Mexican resident for several months every year in Loreto, BCS. While I was living in Loreto last fall and winter there were at least six people murdered in my town. I was two streets away from a double murder while shopping on a Sunday morning at the outdoor market. A swarm of policia and solders descended on the market and the surrounding neighborhood as I chatted in Spanglish with my favorite vegetable vendor. A silence fell over the market din and her usual smile sank in realization, reflecting all the collective strain felt by her community. The impact of these killings extends far beyond making tourists uncomfortable. Marisol raises her children in this small town of 15,000, knows everyone, and her livelihood depends on tourism. This is where the real impact of narco-killings is felt. We were escorted to our car by an armed soldier wearing full riot gear. I remember feeling more sadness than fear.
There were three more executions this winter, one of the deceased was a high ranking cartel boss, which left a power void and appears to be playing a role in the recent surge of killings. Another murdered man was tossed from a moving vehicle on the highway near my home at mid-day. The struggle is real and I’m not sugar-coating it for you. An interesting thing occurs when we have a killing in town. The news and details are slow in coming to English language sites and the expats with business interests try to squelch any discussion on social media. We usually get our news from the Mexican fisherman and security guards. They are matter of fact in the telling and unfortunately have learned to take these killings in stride.
Am I afraid?
Absolutely not. I don’t think about these drug related turf battles on a daily basis any more than I think about the homicides in my American community. What I do worry about is the impact the Mexico travel advisory and the sensationalism of the homicides will have on tourism in the region. We have friends who rely on tourism to survive: boat captains, restaurant owners, produce vendors and hoteliers. I worry about friends who have children that might get sucked into the drug trade; a drug trade fueled by America’s endless need for drugs. That should be in the news along side the sensational stories about Mexican violence, but it isn’t really news any more. I worry that Mexicans are dying. I worry that the Mexican government can’t seem to stop the killings.
I worry that journalists are dying and can’t be protected when they report on the cartels and/or the corruption they see in some of their police and military protectors. We shouldn’t forget that there are good people doing great things in Mexico to combat the killings. There are grass roots efforts to improve economic growth hoping to protect their communities from the realities of narco traffic.
Believe me, Mexicans do care.
I don’t worry about tourists and expats getting caught in the cross fire, an event which is extremely rare. I worry that your fear will keep you from exploring all that is Mexico, her lovely people, beautiful landscape, history and unique culture.
I use caution and so should you.
- Never travel at night, mostly because of road hazards and large animals on the road, but you don’t want to be a victim of a crime of opportunity.
- Travel in small caravans and look out for each other.
- Consider renting or buying a satellite phone for use in remote areas, including most of Highway 1.
- Cooperate at all military check points. Smile and let them search your car. I applaud their efforts.
- Be cautious about stopping at distractions along the highway. False road blocks, fake accidents, bumping your car at high speed. Try to keep driving.
Personal safety: These apply worldwide including in the United States.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Travel with friends, especially at night.
- Don’t flash money or expensive jewelry.
- Protect your wallet or purse.
- If you feel uncomfortable then leave immediately. Trust your gut.
- Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all in crowded areas and resorts.
- If you hear gun fire, duck and take cover. They probably aren’t shooting at you.
- Avoid obviously dangerous areas. Ask the hotel desk where it’s safe to wander or take a run.
- Ask for help. The Mexicans are lovely, family oriented people who are always willing to help.
Learn key phase in spanish.
I need help – Necessito ayuda
I need a doctor – Necessito un medico.
I need the police – Necessito a la policia.
HELP! – AYUDA!
Share this because there is way too much misinformation out there. I love Mexico and I hope you take the time to learn more and visit this great country.
SHARE IT, PIN IT
Donde puedo encontra bueno comida? – Where can I find great food? at My Baja Kitchen so subscribe today and never miss a recipe or a rant.