May 17, 2011
Due to the violence in Mexico, many Americans are now reconsidering whether or not they want to visit that country.
If enough Americans choose not to visit Mexico it could result in major losses of revenue for the Mexican tourism industry, which provides jobs for several million Mexicans. Even if Mexico suddenly became safer, it could take years to live down its image.
So should American tourists visit Mexico?
I personally do not tell Americans they should or should not visit Mexico. That’s their personal decision.
I would advise them to be informed and look at the big picture however.
On the one hand, some talk as though the whole country of Mexico is an anarchic shooting gallery, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s certainly not correct.
On the other hand, there is danger in Mexico and a potential traveler should be aware of it.
Mexico is a big country. It’s approximately the size of Western Europe. Homicide rates vary throughout Mexico. So does drug cartel violence.
Mexico’s northern states have a lot of drug violence precisely because that’s where the drugs are moved into the United States.
Of all the Americans killed in Mexico in 2010, over a third of them were killed in the border cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana. (Ciudad Juarez is across the border from El Paso, Texas while Tijuana is across the border from San Diego, California).
Ciudad Juarez has Mexico’s highest murder rate.
In any city you visit, it makes a difference as to what part of town you are in, and in what sorts of activities you are engaged.
A growing quantity of Americans in Mexico are being killed in cartel violence. As reported in a recent article on MSNBC.com:
“At least 106 U.S. residents were victims of ‘executions’ or ‘homicides’ directly related to drug battles in Mexico in 2010, compared to 79 in 2009 and 35 in 2007, according to the State Department figures…experts — and the State Department itself — say the number is certainly much higher. For example, the State Department doesn’t list several recent high-profile deaths that have been publicly linked to the drug cartels or cases in which Americans have vanished or been killed in the U.S. by Mexican drug gangs.”
It’s fair to point out that there are some Americans who have gotten involved in drug cartels, so it’s not surprising when they also get mixed up in the violence.
Scott Stewart of the STRATFOR intelligence firm points out another complication: "You have a lot of folks who are dual citizens, with some born in the U.S. but (who) live on the Mexico side. A lot of them are working back and forth and some are working as gunmen too. And when someone like that dies, it is hard to know. Some simply disappear while others are lying in a vat of lye or dumped into a mass grave."
There are also Americans who are killed in crime not directly related to cartel violence , and there are some who die in accidents.
It’s hard to determine exactly how many Americans die in Mexico, although the State Department does keep a running ally of the reports it does receive.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that up to 300 Americans die annually in Mexico. Each one of those deaths is a tragedy. But 300 deaths would still be a fraction of the estimated 15 million Americans who visit Mexico annually.
So statistically, the chances of an American tourist being killed in Mexico are not very high at all.
On the other hand, if Americans do have trouble in Mexico, they are in a foreign country, they may not speak the language, and the Mexican legal system is notoriously unreliable. Of course, it’s unreliable for Mexicans also.
The U.S. State Department’s Mexico travel warning of April 22nd, 2011, explains the situation thusly:
“Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day for study, tourism or business and at least one million U.S. citizens who live in Mexico. The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes. Nevertheless, crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere. While most victims of violence are Mexican citizens associated with criminal activity, the security situation poses serious risks for U.S. citizens as well. “
The rest of this document is located here, it is very informative.
Yes, there is growing violence in Mexico and tourists should be aware of it.
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On the other hand, the number of Americans killed in Mexico is a tiny fraction of the millions who visit there.
If you plan to visit Mexico, be sure to investigate your destinations, your routes, and where you plan to stay. Plan ahead. And enjoy your trip.
If you choose not to visit Mexico, hope and pray that the situation will improve, for the good of both our nations.
� 2011 Allan Wall - All Rights Reserved
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Allan Wall recently returned to the U.S. after residing many years in Mexico.