Safety in Mexico is suddenly a hot topic, thanks to the U.S. 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, downtown Chicago or L.A.?) It is a problem, of course, but a very concentrated one — affecting specific areas, and specific people (generally those involved with the trade). It is not all over Mexico, and it’s not in San Miguel.
Of course, not all Sanmiguelenses are angels. Someone might 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 café tables, or your purse dangling on the back of your chair at a restaurant). You might reconsider taking your purse to the Tuesday Market.
These, however, are not the signs of an outlaw state. They 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 a.m. 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 towns where everybody knows each other (and are all related) 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 we know of. Nor do we have school or workplace shootings.
In San Miguel, “going postal” denotes how badly you need a margarita after spending two hours 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 his/her life — is highly irresponsible sensationalism. By wreaking havoc on tourism (the nation’s third largest source of income) not to mention 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.” (To see the the full text of the article, go to: http://www.hispanicvista.com/HVC/Columnist/Misc/041509Linda_Ellerbee.htm)
Nicely put, Ms. Ellerbee!
So what are you waiting for? Come on in, the water’s fine!
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