Mexico. A country of 758,449 square miles, 5797 miles of coastline, the 14th largest country in the world, and a country 190 times the size of Texas – population 126.7 million. Mass shootings in 2022? Three. In 2023? Zero. Compare that to the US tally of 646 mass shootings in 2022 and over 244 and counting already in 2023. Is there crime in Mexico? You betcha. Is it dangerous to travel to Mexico? Sure, if you’re heading to Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez or any number of cities along the Border. Is it more dangerous than traveling to the US? The answer to that question is a resounding NO when you look at overall statistics, but how many of us are fearful of traveling to Texas, California, Louisiana, Florida or North Carolina? All states accounting for over a 1/3 of the shootings this year already but also states extremely popular for meetings and conventions.
Mexico is, by far, the most popular resort destination for travelers from the US and the Mexican economy is extremely reliant on Americans visiting in droves yearly. I recently traveled solo to Mexico and found myself asking the questions posted above over and over again. At no time did I ever feel unsafe while out and about on my own. This last trip took me to Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and Cancun. Everywhere I looked I saw Americans, Europeans and Mexicans enjoying the beauty of the area and others going about the business of their lives without fear or hesitation. On the ferry ride from Playa to Cozumel I sat next to two lovely Mexican ladies on their way to Cozumel to visit family for the weekend and on the way back I met an American expat from New Mexico who married and moved to Cozumel 16 years ago. Since there was no language barrier, I took advantage of the chance to chat with her about safety in the Yucatan and Mexican perspectives on how cartel violence is being portrayed by the US media. In brief, her response was along the lines of the sentiment that it's hurtful, inaccurate and a bit biased. Mexicans are aware of the challenges they face with cartel violence that is primarily focused in more economically challenged states, but they are also aware that the cartels are driven by the demand from north of the border for the drugs that they supply. Citizens in these areas feel somewhat helpless as there is little political will to really go after the cartels because of the depth of corruption in the local and state governments. It is frustrating to them that more Americans aren't aware of the geography of the country, the political situation in the country and assume that what happens in isolated incidents means the entire country is riddled with crime, impoverished and dangerous. She pointed out that the majority of Mexicans closely follow US news and politics and are equally baffled by our own violence problems and lack of will to address ways to reduce it. She also highlighted that several countries have travel warnings and advisories cautioning against travel to the US. I fact-checked her on that last point when I got to my room and she was right – they do.
So, what is a person to do after evaluating the facts and the risks of traveling to Mexico or booking a group there? First, do your own research – governmental agencies are the best point of reference to check for travel advisories or safety updates by specific region. Most of Mexico is at a Level 2 from the US Dept. of State much like most of the Caribbean and Italy. The media in general and bloggers have an obligation to drive clicks to attract sponsors – the more sensational the headline, the more clicks they’ll receive. Second, ask your hotel about the levels of security they have in place – 98% of resorts in Mexico require you to be on their reservations list to even enter the property or leave. Thirdly, talk to your friends whose opinions you trust the most and who may have visited Mexico recently. What was their impression? Did they feel safe? Are they ready to go back? If so, you’re probably good to go too.
At the end of the day, everyone must make their own determination about where they want to travel and what their level of risk is when traveling. It’s a big, wide world out there and I advocate everyone seeing as much of it as they can, if they can, while they can. Travel is the great equalizer in life and I think if we arm ourselves with the right tools, we can make smart decisions about where we individually decide our next adventure will take us.