safety in san miguel & mexico

cnncover1 safety in san miguel & mexicoMay 6, 2011. CNN says: Travel in Mexico is Safe (if you just use your brain!) check out our new blog entry for the very belated truth from the media about travel and safety in mexico. (from the likes of CNN, Seattle Times, Denver Post…)

So there. We hate to say i told you so… (but we SO told you so.)

San Miguel is a very safe little city. (One of the top 8 safest places to visit in Mexico, according to Lonely Planet, May 2011) Probably safer than where you live, unless you happen to live in Mayberry, circa 1955. The Casita, hidden away in a middle-class neighborhood, behind high walls and locked doors, is a safe place within a safe place. There are no big signs announcing who we are, which keeps us nice and anonymous. Plus, our neighbors look out for us (and vice-versa). If it makes you feel any better, we have lockboxes in every room. It is BYOL, however — bring your own lock — since ours tended to disappear with the guests (isn’t it ironic?)

basic travel caution (aka: use your brain), of course, is advisable whether you’re at home or on the road: don’t walk alone late at night (and why would you—cheap, safe taxis are always available); avoid the park or any unsavory looking areas after dark; don’t flash a lot of cash or jewelry; simply pay attention (ie: use your brain). Otherwise, relax and enjoy! More details below.

violence in mexico — the real story

(A poignant little rant from way back in 2009. Did we mention that we told you so?)

Safety in Mexico is suddenly a hot topic, thanks to the mass media (and, in part, to the drug cartels). Unfortunately, a lot of what these sources report is less than accurate. Or at least, it’s only accurate for a tiny portion of a very large, very pacific country.

Most of Mexico is safer than much of the US, in fact. Yes, there is drug-related violence in Mexico. (Where isn’t there? And how does it compare to, say, Chicago or L.A.?) It is a problem, but a very concentrated one — affecting specific areas, specific people. It is not all over Mexico, and it’s not in San Miguel.

Of course, not all Sanmiguelenses are angels. Someone might try to overcharge you. You could get your pocket picked in a crowd. And you don’t want to valuables lying around (ie: cell phones and ipods on tables, or your purse dangling on the back of your chair). You might reconsider taking your purse to the Tuesday Market. These are merely the universal symptoms of poverty living side by side with wealth.

San Miguel de Allende is a peaceful place (unless you’re driving, then things can get a wee bit confrontational — but that’s not violence, so much as what happens when everybody subscribes to their own version of the rules of the road.) Statistically speaking, you’re safer here at four am than you are in a major American city at noon. Probably safer than where you live, unless you live in one of those (mythical?) tiny North American towns where everybody knows each other and nobody locks their doors.

If you really want to compare San Miguel with, say, the U.S…

Ok. Let’s see. So far, we have no serial killers, axe murderers, snipers, carjackings, road-rage gunfights, mad bombers, Crips, or Bloods. We’ve had one high(ish)-speed car chase that i know of. We don’t have school or workplace shootings. In San Miguel, going postal denotes how badly you need a margarita after spending an hour in line trying to mail a postcard, and then realizing you’ll arrive home before it does. Apart from the extremely rare and easily-avoided mugging or robbery, visits here are rather uneventful. (If it’s drama you want, try caching a cab in Mexico City — even there, drama is not guaranteed.)

The real crime here is how Mexico has been portrayed. This recent gory image of Mexico — as a dangerous, lawless land to be avoided at all costs by anyone who values their life — is highly irresponsible sensationalism. By wreaking havoc on tourism (the nation’s third largest source of income, and the millions of people that work in the industry, this portrayal hurts exponentially more innocent people than does the violence it trumpets.

One North American voice of reason, award-winning journalist Linda Ellerbee, recommends a certain sense of proportion when judging Mexico:

“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.”

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