Travel to Mexico is Safe !?

by Hidden Trails 01/11/2011

Story by Pepe Schravesande  Valle de Bravo, Mexico

People interested to visit foreign countries during their vacation time usually choose places where they can easily know they will not have any problems during their holiday. Often we easily become the prey of the sensationalist media news and without making any further research, we simply decide to put aside any country that has the minimum amount of violence related information. Sensationalist journalism influences tourist decisions and make them reluctant and hesitant to visit a country where they may otherwise have an enjoyable vacation. So when it comes to Mexico ... is it a safe country ?

Many well informed citizens from countries all over the world, but specifically from the USA and Canada, make Mexico their "Retirement Home"  Statistics show an increased number of retired “baby boomers” from the USA and Canada that are deciding to live their retirement days in a country with a mild weather, warm and hospitable people, and good and accessible variety of food.  All these people have surely made an intensive research before deciding to move and live permanently in certain specific regions in Mexico.  They cannot all be wrong; if you study carefully each region, Mexico is a good place where to live! Therefore, many regions in Mexico are also an excellent choice where to have a great vacation.

Of course nobody can deny that violence has increased in Mexico.  A comparison with violent acts happening in the country before year 2007 demonstrates this fact.  But something important to know is that the so called “drug war” is mainly taking place in the Mexican northern states that border with the United States of America, the biggest consumer of drugs in the world. There are some other small specific areas in Mexico that are affected with this violence, but in most of the cities, towns and villages people continue to live in peace and harmony.

During his term of office, President Calderon has made a big effort to break down the multiple drug cartels that work in the country sending drugs to neighbor countries, Canada and USA; the same as to many other countries in Europe.  The result of this hard and risky work made by municipal, state and federal police with the help of the army and the navy, shows that multiple leaders of these mafias have been arrested and many of them killed in violent confrontations.  The process followed by the Mexican government, with the advice and help of American and Colombian specialized agencies, is working as predicted.  But the temptation of “easy and big money” has made the drug cartels become very aggressive between them trying to occupy the spaces left by the arrested or killed leaders.  The violent deaths that are mentioned in the sensationalist media come from these drug gang confrontations.  Most of the people that die work in the drug related commerce and, regrettably, some policemen and soldiers working for the benefit of Mexican citizens also die in the line of duty.

Sadly, the media sensationalism has taken advantage of this situation and converted Mexico into a country that frequently appears in the TV and press with only bad news (which of course sells more than good news!). 

In counterbalance, some weeks ago two different well known publications showed how fallaciously this information has been manipulated and blown out of proportion.  In New York, a local newspaper published a research comparing violent deaths in different countries.  Separately, in Mexico City a prestigious medicine magazine with information from the World Health Organization made the same type of analysis.  In both of them, Mexico appears in a position lower than the middle of the table, below many other countries that do not have the same scandalous coverage by the media.  The difference is that these other countries have had the same amount of violent deaths for many years whilst Mexico’s violent deaths suddenly increased since 2007.  This is what makes Mexico very attractive to the yellow press!  But still now days, Mexico has less violent deaths per inhabitant than almost three fourths of the countries that appeared in these analysis.  The heartbreaking part is that this type of information does not easily appear in press releases around the world.

Tourism in Mexico represents the third source of income of the country.  It is a very important activity which provides many Mexicans with a way of living.  In year 2009 this industry was seriously affected by noisy news coverage of an influenza epidemic alert in Mexico that, at the turn of the weeks, affected more people in many other countries than in the country where the alarm was first given.  In year 2010, again a noisy news coverage informing about drug cartels and violence, also hit all tourism related business.  Now days this industry reports 40-45% occupancy against the 80-90% that it had in previous years.

Mexico is a big country with a wide variety of ecosystems that provide a great diversity of flora and fauna.  From the tropical jungle to the high altitude mountain forests and from the blue seashores to the golden dessert, Mexico has a broad biodiversity.  This is also reflected in the different physical traits and behavior patterns that Mexican citizens have throughout the country.  Visitors can distinguish the different regions not only by their geographical location, countryside, flora and fauna but also by their particular history, culture, food, music and handicrafts.  All are different and each region is unique, including its people with their behavior and activities.  One cannot generalize.  Each region and its people should be analyzed individually.  Therefore the sensationalist media should apply the same criteria when informing about what happens in Mexico.  This way, tourists would be better informed about the reality of the different regions that shape Mexico.  The U.S. Department of State knows this and clearly informs about the regions they consider their citizens shouldn’t visit. Still, because of the sensationalist media news, most of the possible tourists make a generalization of the whole country, instead of individualizing each region. 

The Mexican tourism board is making a significant effort to promote the different regions of the country.  Special advertising campaigns in magazines, newspapers, TV, fairs and exhibitions have been created to inform tourists around the world about all the regional beauties that Mexico has.  The campaigns show the different tourist places that can be visited including seashores, prehispanic ruins, colonial cities, natural wilderness areas and the “Pueblos Magicos” (Mexican magic towns).  Amongst this last group is Valle de Bravo, located in the State of Mexico.  Due to its location, landscapes, weather, and the special security system that the governor of the State of Mexico has displayed in this area, Valle de Bravo is considered “The Jewell of the State of Mexico”.  Being the most important tourist place in the State of Mexico, favored by the presence of bankers, industry men, politicians, ambassadors and high society families, Valle de Bravo is one of the best taken care regions in the country.  The wealthy and important families from Mexico City have made of this peaceful place their weekend home where they have the opportunity to practice an extensive variety of outdoor sports and activities that includes one of their favorite ones: horseback riding. 

For many years hundreds of riders from different countries have come to ride to Valle de Bravo.  All of them have enjoyed the natural beauties of the colonial town, its blue lake and the evergreen forests that surround it.  Many of these tourists have made of Valle de Bravo a return place for their vacations.  Experiencing the real Mexican way of life, international visitors have enjoyed riding in a peaceful and hospitable region that makes them want to return for more.

January 11, 2011.
Jose Schravesande Brun


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