My heart skips a beat each time I see one of these travel warnings. Of course I abhor the drug and cartel violence that covers much of the country, but I also sympathize with all the good, hardworking Mexicans who have absolutely nothing do with the cartels and depend on tourism dollars for their livelihood. Americans–and I include many of my friends and family in this–hear “Don’t travel to X state in Mexico,” or “There’s been a shooting or kidnapping in Mazatlan or Acapulco,” and they assume that the entire country isn’t safe.
I can’t tell you how many phone calls and emails my husband and I got from friends and family asking us to reconsider our recent trip to Cabo San Lucas in March. And the same was true when a girlfriend and I took a quick girls’ trip to Cancun last August. My parents especially were acting out of love, but if they had done their homework they would have realized that Cabo and Cancun are two of the safest areas in Mexico–safer than many neighborhoods in my nearby cities of Washington and Baltimore–and that millions of Americans safely visit Mexico every year.
The Mexican people are some of the friendliest and most welcoming I’ve ever met. Are they out to make as much money as possible off of us? Of course, but the phrase “No Gracias” helps, and I’m not sure how it’s different in any other tourist destination. I mean, my father had his wallet stolen in Vienna once, so crime and danger can happen anywhere, but we were cautious and alert–no dark alleys–and no one even tried to mess with us.
And while the Mexican government has taken a lot of heat in the American press for a seeming inability to cope with the cartels or stop the violence in some states, they were out in force in Cabo, as this State Department warning (http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5440.html) notes. Mexican Marines and Federales were on practically every street corner, and they checked every fishing boat leaving the harbor. Our fishing captain also told us not to be surprised if the Marines decided to board our boat to search for drugs. (They didn’t and we didn’t have any, in case you were wondering.)
Am I suggesting that anyone hop on next flight to Ciudad Juarez? Of course not–only that people should pay attention to the areas that are safe as well as dangerous when planning their next trips. Otherwise, they could miss out on some great vacations.