Is Mexico dangorous, another view...

01_el_tiburon

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One Journalist’s View
By Linda Ellerbee


Sometimes I’ve been called a maverick because I don’t always agree with my colleagues, but then, only dead fish swim with the stream all the time. The stream here is Mexico .



You would have to be living on another planet to avoid hearing how dangerous Mexico has become, and, yes, it’s true drug wars have escalated violence in Mexico , causing collateral damage, a phrase I hate. Collateral damage is a cheap way of saying that innocent people, some of them tourists, have been robbed, hurt or killed.



But that’s not the whole story. Neither is this. This is my story.



I’m a journalist who lives in New York City , but has spent considerable time in Mexico , specifically Puerto Vallarta , for the last four years. I’m in Vallarta now. And despite what I’m getting from the U.S. media, the 24-hour news networks in particular, I feel as safe here as I do at home in New York , possibly safer. I walk the streets of my Vallarta neighborhood alone day or night. And I don’t live in a gated community, or any other All-Gringo neighborhood. I live in Mexico . Among Mexicans. I go where I want (which does not happen to include bars where prostitution and drugs are the basic products), and take no more precautions than I would at home in New York; which is to say I don’t wave money around, I don’t act the Ugly American, I do keep my eyes open, I’m aware of my surroundings, and I try not to behave like a fool.



I’ve not always been successful at that last one. One evening a friend left the house I was renting in Vallarta at that time, and, unbeknownst to me, did not slam the automatically-locking door on her way out. Sure enough, less than an hour later a stranger did come into my house. A burglar? Robber? Kidnapper? Killer? Drug lord?



No, it was a local police officer, the “beat cop” for our neighborhood, who, on seeing my unlatched door, entered to make sure everything (including me) was okay. He insisted on walking with me around the house, opening closets, looking behind doors and, yes, even under beds, to be certain no one else had wandered in, and that nothing was missing. He was polite, smart and kind, but before he left, he lectured me on having not checked to see that my friend had locked the door behind her. In other words, he told me to use my common sense.



Do bad things happen here? Of course they do. Bad things happen everywhere, but the murder rate here is much lower than, say, New Orleans, and if there are bars on many of the ground floor windows of houses here, well, the same is true where I live, in Greenwich Village, which is considered a swell neighborhood — house prices start at about $4 million (including the bars on the ground floor windows).



There are good reasons thousands of people from the United States are moving to Mexico every month, and it’s not just the lower cost of living, a hefty tax break and less snow to shovel. Mexico is a beautiful country, a special place. The climate varies, but is plentifully mild, the culture is ancient and revered, the young are loved unconditionally, the old are respected, and I have yet to hear anyone mention Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, or Madonna’s attempt to adopt a second African child, even though, with such a late start, she cannot possibly begin to keep up with Anglelina Jolie.



And then there are the people. Generalization is risky, but— in general — Mexicans are warm, friendly, generous and welcoming. If you smile at them, they smile back. If you greet a passing stranger on the street, they greet you back. If you try to speak even a little Spanish, they tend to treat you as though you were fluent. Or at least not an idiot. I have had taxi drivers track me down after leaving my wallet or cell phone in their cab. I have had someone run out of a store to catch me because I have overpaid by twenty cents. I have been introduced to and come to love a people who celebrate a day dedicated to the dead as a recognition of the cycles of birth and death and birth — and the 15th birthday of a girl, an important rite in becoming a woman — with the same joy.



Too much of the noise you’re hearing about how dangerous it is to come to Mexico is just that — noise. But the media love noise, and too many journalists currently making it don’t live here. Some have never even been here. They just like to be photographed at night, standing near a spotlighted border crossing, pointing across the line to some imaginary country from hell. It looks good on TV.



Another thing. The U.S. media tend to lump all of Mexico into one big bad bowl. Talking about drug violence in Mexico without naming a state or city where this is taking place is rather like looking at the horror of Katrina and saying, “Damn. Did you know the U.S. is under water?” or reporting on the shootings at Columbine or the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City by saying that kids all over the U.S. are shooting their classmates and all the grownups are blowing up buildings. The recent rise in violence in Mexico has mostly occurred in a few states, and especially along the border. It is real, but it does not describe an entire country.



It would be nice if we could put what’s going on in Mexico in perspective, geographically and emotionally. It would be nice if we could remember that, as has been noted more than once, these drug wars wouldn’t be going on if people in the United States didn’t want the drugs, or if other people in the United States weren’t selling Mexican drug lords the guns. Most of all, it would be nice if more people in the United States actually came to this part of America ( Mexico is also America , you will recall) to see for themselves what a fine place Mexico really is, and how good a vacation (or a life) here can be.



So come on down and get to know your southern neighbors. I think you’ll like it here. Especially the people. ***
 

DEZERTSUB

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Very good read!!!
 

Shannon

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I agree with you,for the most part,our family has had a co-op type deal in the south campos S-F for 30+ years,don't know what live is without Mexico, the people fore the most part are great and always excepted us ,even when we try to speak spanish which is usally a little ugly ,even know we've got better over the years. My only problem right now is the border towns they seem to be a little hostel. In my opinion due to the fact of all of the cartel people,and for some reason I've always noticed that there seems to be more of a chippy attitude there.. My motto is the farther you go south the better the people are in general...I always tell people it's like going to the hood don't go places you know you shouldn't. If it doesn't fell right ,its probibly not!!!! Go down,be safe,and have FUN!!!!!!
 

WickedGravityVideo

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Ms. Elerbee:

I will take issue with your post. It seems your post is generally to tell us that mexico is a wonderful place and that it is safe. correct? You tell us you have lived in a tourist port city, far from either the border or D.F., and relate to us your experiences of how safe your neighborhood/town is. You then go on to say that you cannot simply make blanket statements about a large diverse country being either safe or unsafe. I agree completely.... so it follows that your experience in PV hardly is representative of what we experience in Baja, particularly in the TJ-Ensenada corridor.

You are telling us nothing we don't already know. Furthermore, you are not even relating to our particular situation. We desert racers are concerned with BCN, specifically, this month, the first 100 miles south of the CA/BCN,MX border. If you care to address your firsthand experience of running around Tijuana as a resident for four years, that would mean so much more to us. TJ is a drug cartel gateway and a border town, on top of that. Your life in Puerto Vallarta has little in common with TJ... yeah, they have quincineiras in TJ, too, but the vibe is quite different in parts of TJ. Ensenada has some of the same safety issues, but significantly less.


You are preaching to the choir if you think you need to convince desert racers to like mexico. We love Mexico... many race families live in So. Cal and have been frequently going to Mexico for 20-40 years for vacation/races/etc. However, there have been some upsetting things happen in the TJ-Ensenada corridor that give us reason for concern. We listen to our racing brothers and sisters that spend time in Baja.. first-hand reports, not articles written by East-coast media people.

The US -driven drug/firearms comments you made.... well, that is another subject that I won't even comment on.

I am not afraid of going to MX .. simply, for me, the risk is worth the reward. Most of the desert racers feel this way, some don't... to each his own. Why don't you come up to Ensenada in two weeks and we will give you a new perspective and things to write about? Come on up. We will be there.

Doug of Wicked Gravity Video .... visitor to Mexico since 1976
 

WickedGravityVideo

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Oh, one more interesting thing I noticed... it is highly unusual for a journalist to open an article with a statement of self promotion and boasting. If you are a worthy journalist, you would not need to state up-front that you are a MAVERICK.... reading your article would lead us to suspect that. I call bogus your your maverickness..... John McCain... and Sarah Palin.... now, they were MaVerICKs! Oh, yeah, Tom Cruise in Top Gun... he was a MaviRICk, too! haha

( OK, i am done with my rant for now, I will now take my meds and go lie down)
 

bajabird

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my reality; your right.....
i get home in mexico, and i am more at peace (especially after a margy at one of my favorite if not 3 of my favorite watering holes). I gotta slow down from the fast paced every day world here outside of los angeles and get to the pace and sentiment of southern baja.

Mind you all, the north is not to be taken lightly. Be on guard, watch your stuff, do all the right things with respectful regard. Have your papers, don't have a pocket knife, learn from others past problems; know where your going and why your there. As racers, you are really looked upon in baja as a type of hero. Be kind, respectful, thankful and enjoy. See ya in baja amigo!
 

mwilsonphoto.com

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I like! I have property in Baja and it's my favorite vacation spot to visit, surf, offroad, drink beer. What's better.
 

BoothPacific Films

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It would be hard o find a better spot to in the world to surf, fish, ride motos and dunebuggies and then see the stars at night. B.C.S.
 

harleys dad

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I dont know if it is dangerous or not, but I will find out 3 weeks after the 500
 

Baja Fool

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"No Mas" - Roberto Duran 1980

 
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Dezertpilot

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Cant wait for May 31st!
 

JD Durfey

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Mexico, like most countries has it's good parts and bad parts unfortuantely the Americans get targeted too occasionally in thier "drug wars"

I don't have any problem going down there, I am not going to hang out around the border any more. I won't even cross at TJ after dark any more. But I love Mexico and the people, so it is going to take a lot to get me to stop going down there.
 
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