What If The Shoe Was On The Other Foot? Some Thoughts On Violent Crime And Tourism

By Lola

What if CNN headlines blared “Drug Violence Claims 4 Lives In Popular Vacation Destination” every time a gang-banger (any color, any race) shot up a rival gang’s sidewalk in Los Angeles? What if Fox News ran a constant ticker that read “Murder Chose Chicago 131 Times This Year” and held forms discussing why the city should be boycotted? (In fact, September in that city ended last week with 30 homicides. Nearly 20% of the victims were teens.) Should travel warnings be issued for the Windy City? Should we close up California because, according to the LAPD, even though overall gang crimes fell 12.2 percent, 31 more people were shot [this year] in suspected gang crimes, an increase of 4.9 percent?

I wouldn’t be lying if I said the US has more violence than other first-world countries—and that’s been a fact even before drug use in this country escalated to the point where every enterprising dealer south of the border wanted a piece of the action. We have more robberies, rapes and assaults here. We glorify violence in our movies and our TV shows. We breed serial killers. Meth labs are popping up like daisies in the suburbs (and we all know how sweet and mellow meth-heads can be). We are now even venturing into suicide promotion with the sudden spike of bullying in our schools.

So… honestly. Where are our travel warnings?

Are you mad yet? You should be. This is a great country. It’s a beautiful country. And if you stay away from the scary section of town, if you don’t deal drugs, if you aren’t a hooker and you steer clear of shady bars, chances are you’ll have a ball and be safe as houses in every city, coast to coast. It’s not a guarantee, though, because even in this great nation of ours, innocent lives have been claimed in crossfire. But the police scanners certainly won’t keep me from enjoying the fall weather along the Navy Pier in Chicago or spending a weekend of pure fun in Los Angeles.

So why should I cancel my visit to Puerto Vallarta? Or forget my plans to visit Mexico City for a week?

I shouldn’t. And neither should you.

Yes, be careful. Yes, take normal precautions. No, don’t go to the locus of the cartels for a drive or a drink.

I know I’m not the only one out there who thinks this way. I’m not a lone voice in the wilderness, but sometimes it sure feels that way. So, I’m doing what I can with the tools I have.

Here are just a couple of links from like-minded people. I know there are many more of you out there. Raise your voice. Let it be heard. Thousands upon thousands of people in Mexico depend on tourism for their livelihood. People who can’t feed their children become desperate. And we all know about desperate people. Please help reverse this desperation by looking beyond the headlines.

Thanks for your time.


The Economist Blog: “Mexico: Safer Than Canada”

Mexico Boutique Hotels Blog: “Travel Warning for the United States?”

32 thoughts on “What If The Shoe Was On The Other Foot? Some Thoughts On Violent Crime And Tourism”

  1. Such a refreshingly honest picture of crime and safety in the U.S. compared to Mexico. Way to go!

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more!

    Here’s another blog that treats the theme in a similar way.
    If you could link it to your page, you could help spread the word.
    I’m so glad that some people in the US are able to interpret the news about Mexico in a way that makes sense.

  3. Lets not forget the glourious 70s in Florida,Remember the violence,scarface the drug wars etc.I never heard travel warnings then .The U.S.A and its media is out of control with their hypocracy .This has had a devastating effect in tourism for Mexico and it is based on hype .

  4. I agree with you. The only difference is you don’t hear about 75 people being executed in one room in the US. I’m in Jalisco now and it’s not too bad as long as we stick with family.

  5. Thank you. This is the reality and unfortunately, too many people buy right into the media in the U.S. and don’t think about what parties are behind the media. Furthermore,
    the U.S. economy is suffering so it makes sense that polical and business interests want to keep the dollars in the U.S. instead of spending it here in beautiful Mexico where your dollars would go further anyway.

  6. Well Lola, I have read your article a number of times since it has shown up on my face book and in my e mails. I have read peoples response, I will in the next week post your article on my newspaper and give my thoughts as to why you are correct, why you are incorrect and my thoughts as to the media coverage by CNN and Fox news that you commented on.

  7. So true, Lola, my mind-set exactly…I have been meaning to write something just like this..I have lived in P.V. for 17 years, and still hav no problem walking on almost any street at night, which i never would do in th U.S.
    It is sad, that the press and a lot of Americans live in fear, and some actually paranoia…
    yes, there has been violent drug crimes here,but the average tourist or citizen would not be involved, with the exception of the tradgedy in Taumalipas…
    In th U.S. students have been shot and killed at schools! Is this security?? I havent heard of this in Mexico…

  8. No big shootouts at Mexican schools, no… Or has anybody heard about this. I think, sadly, it’s an American phenomenon…

  9. Thanks, Will. I look forward to reading your article. Please send us a link/scan so we can check it out.

  10. Perhaps, but as Kathy mentioned above, in Mexico you don’t hear about schoolchildren targeting other schoolchildren with homemade bombs, automatic weapons and rifles. No drug dealers involved. Just kids shooting other kids because they feel completely alienated from their peers, their family, their society. And now the suicides caused by bullying. It’s devastating on an even more cellular level than drug dealers murdering each other.

  11. I’m sure this is good information…..BUT…I live on the Mexican border of Texas and I am uncomfortable visiting my (Previously) favorite places in Mexico.. If you passed through inspections, guard posts, soldiers with automatic weapons on the street, and are faced with armored cars You would be uncomfortable too — Especially when you can’t tell the good guys (Soldiers? Police? Federal agents?) from the bad guys (Narcotraficantes, kidnappers, robbers, murderers, etc.). No thanks. I’ll just stay on my side of the Mexaicn border for a while longer.

  12. The ‘big bully’ from the North has always looked for scapegoats whether they be recent immigrants, Muslims, or ‘those’ Mexicans that bring violence and drugs to Uncle Sam’s back door. The function of such ‘other’ bashing is to avoid responsibility for the mess of it’s own system or scare those who cannot see beyond their own noses to vote for politicians who are bought out by interest groups. People who take time to seek out the facts, as Lola so clearly points out, see through Fox News and decide for themselves that Mexico is filled with more delights than can even be experienced in a lifetime.

  13. I think you are right about the fact that violence is everywhere, especially in America but what if you were sending your kid somewhere like Mexico, New Orleans, Chicago, shoot even a place like Tennessee, wouldn’t you want to know whats going on there? Yeah your right still enjoy it and take precautions but even the people who take the right precautions can still end up hurt. There are people who walk into a grocery store and end up being shot, the truth is you can’t avoid violence no matter how hard you try, but if you know that where your going has a higher risk of that wouldn’t you take the precaution of avoiding it?

  14. You’re right, Kylee—violence can show up on anybody’s doorstep. I happen to live in a city with one of the highest crime rates in America—Phoenix—but I don’t see or read headlines scaring people away from here, and I actively encourage my friends and family to visit. Would you avoid coming here? I court danger every time I get in my car and drive on Shea Boulevard—a very busy road in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Scottsdale with a very, very high incidence of traffic accidents. It’s all relative.

  15. Thanks, Cedric. I think sensationalism sucks overall—and so does using the media to direct tourism dollars away from a neighbor.

  16. Bravo, Stephen! Loved your post. Common sense prevails in your writing. You did mention Mazatlán (where I’m going to next month), Morelia (where I have friends) and Acapulco (where I’ll be in April). While these cities are within states that have serious issues, if you dig a little deeper you’ll find all three of them are safe—and fun—destinations for the educated traveler. Again, if you don’t go to score drugs, pick up hookers or frequent shady bars, you should be in no more danger than if you come to Phoenix for a SuperBowl game. I also highly recommend the Mexico Boutique Hotels blog, where you can ask Sylvie Laitre, the director, any question you have about any destination and she will give you the REAL inside scoop. http://www.mexicoboutiquehotels.com/wordpress/

  17. I used to live in El Paso and we’d cross the border every weekend for the great restaurants and fun places to hang out (that was 10 years ago and there was next to nothing open after 9 in EP, a total drag). I was just there this summer and had the unfortunate task of finding the animal shelter that’s near the Army base and very, very uncomfortably close to the border. Of course I got lost and yes, I was not enjoying the thought of taking the wrong exit and ending up in the Juárez border car line. So I totally get where you’re coming from. Unfortunately, Juárez is one of several “ground zeros” for narco-violence. But that doesn’t mean the rest of Mexico is. That’s our point here: stay away from the trouble zones and you’ll be fine. And while we’re not guaranteeing anyone’s safety (that’s something no one can do ANYWHERE in the world), we’re certainly saying YES, there are many places in Mexico where you can vacation and not have to dodge bullets.

  18. This is an excellent piece because by turning things around as Lola has done, it reveals an unfortunate truth about the media in the U.S. Unfortunately, their penchant for leveraging fear is motivated by profit (because fear sells). Who cares that it is at the expense of millions of people who lead peaceful lives south of the border? Yes, one has to be cognizant of the facts of drug cartel activity and violence. But the U.S. news misrepresents life here to the point of caricature, making it sound as if the entire country is under siege and there are violent criminals lurking behind every building in every town in Mexico. Mexico is a very large country and for the millions of us who live here, it feels safe. If there were drug turf battles in south L.A., would you cancel your trip to San Francisco? Then why are you afraid to visit San Miguel de Allende or Oaxaca because there is terrible violence 500 miles north in Juarez? It just doesn’t make sense. If you have had a wonderful vacation in Mexico recently, please go home and spread the truth. The news hysteria is getting absurd but worse, it’s hurting lives here.

  19. My wife and I just returned from a fantastic 2 week Christmas vacation in Alamos, Sonora and El Fuerte, Siniloa Mexico. We are seasoned travelers and by no means the typical “scared Americans” but the press and pressure from friends had us second guessing our decision to go to one of our favorite places, Alamos. We forged on and had a wonderful and SAFE time and are ready to return.

    If you ever go to Alamos stay at El Pedregal lodge. Dave and Jennifer (the gringo owners) have an excellent facility on the outskirts (still within easy walking distance of the city plaza) of Alamos. It’s very quiet and Jennifer’s cooking is to die for and Dave is The Man when it comes to bird watching.You can contact them at http://www.solipaso.com.

  20. Wow. Did anyone see any US related travel warnings about going to Minneapolis?

  21. Mexico should be putting out a travel warning for Yuma Arizona…5 civilians shot dead in the light of day – we certainly dont see that happening here in Cancun.
    It is true, even as we watch the American news we think WHAT IF we did the same to them ? So many mexicans go to the USA each year for vacations, hey, I landed in Miami three times in a 5 week period…but alas they are trying to keep the tourist dollars in the USA. But its better here…better beaches and service and friendly people.
    The media assassination of Mexico needs to stop.

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