Living the Dangerous Life in Mexico | The Truth About Mexico

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Living the Dangerous Life in Mexico

A post by "Rick Hepting" |

Rick lives in Puerto Vallarta, and is the founder of both and . To see more posts by this author, click here.

For background, I run a forum in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and the most popular posts lately have been in reference to fears of the “dangers” of traveling and living in Mexico.

I live in Puerto Vallarta permanently and have for three years. Before that I visited Vallarta many times and was a bit of of a snow bird, coming and going with the seasons. I have traveled in many parts of Mexico, as well as South East Asia, the US and Europe.

I’m not a normal tourist by any measure, and I frequent many parts of this town that most tourists would never consider visiting and, certainly, no tourist guide would ever recommend. I live in a barrio, of sorts, far from the gringo enclaves and condo developments. And I don’t blend: I’m an old gringo with red hair, blue eyes and freckles.

No Stinking BadgesThe American and Canadian media have been painting Mexico with a broad brush of danger and fear: Heads rolling into nightclubs, police being gunned down in their driveways, tourists being knifed in their condos, etc. Mexico is now being compared to Middle East war zones by US Pentagon spokesmen.

Supposedly, 6000 people have been killed in the “drug war” here last year (2008). I say “supposedly” because this figure discounts the people normally killed in those cosmopolitan areas and supposes that the cause and motives are the same in all of these deaths. It’s a lot of deaths.

  • I have had a friend here mugged at 3 am when he was walking home drunk from a night of partying. He was beaten and kicked when he didn’t let go of his camera bag.
  • I know of another person who challenged a burglar in his condo (there because the balcony door had been left open), and he was killed when the burglar picked up a kitchen knife to try to get away.
  • There is a report of a gay man who was given a “date rape” drug in a strip bar and then robbed and beaten. Details are sketchy on this instance, but you get the picture.
  • A transsexual was killed a year ago when she had an argument with a trick over payment (or so the street story goes…).
  • A young man was killed almost 2 years ago when he withdrew thousands of dollars from a bank and fought to keep it as he was being robbed.

These are all real stories and all horrible and all things that could happen anywhere. I know. I have lived in places, like Oakland, California, where life was described by everyone as a “war zone.”

The Usual BandidosTo some, this statement of perspective and universality is a deflection from the “dangers of Mexico” that are now being portrayed nightly on all major US and Canadian media outlets.

To others, this is the reality of anyone who has any life experience in any place in the world. I don’t believe that I left any major “crime” involving tourists out here in the last several years.

So why this media blitz about the “dangers” of Mexico? And, more importantly, why is any of this “sky is falling” propaganda rubbing off on Puerto Vallarta, which is definitely outside of any drug cartel battle grounds?

I don’t have a clue. The cynic in me says that it’s just a marketing ploy by the “buy at home” tourist industries of the North, but can big business really be that cold as to slander a whole nation to get a few more tourists to spend their extra $$ locally? I don’t think so, but I’m not one of those trying to get that tourist $$.

Should tourists be warned of the dangers here? Of course, but, then, they are already warned by any travel guide or travel agent in the world that they would talk to. The warnings are standard for any country:

  • Don’t display ostentatious wealth inappropriately
  • Don’t engage in illegal activity
  • Keep aware of your surroundings.

Many people on vacation try to make over the location of that vacation to fit an idealized version of their homes, often forgetting that their homes are no where near any imagined ideal. This tendency is the concept behind the walled, AI (All Inclusive) compounds being constructed in Nuevo Vallarta, it is the concept behind the tacky, white bread, Taco Bells of life.

Mexico isn’t Taco Bell.

Note: This article originally appeared here, and is reprinted with permission.

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9 Comments For This Post

  1. Felipe Says:

    Thank you for saying the truth Mr.!!!

  2. Felipe Says:

    As a ex-government servant I can tell you that all efforts are being when it comes to protect people and it is really unfair that the american and canadian media are always labeling and picturing Mexico as terrible country, which not only affects the government economy , it affects the poorest people as they are the ones that can benefit from tourism

  3. Keith Cowan Says:

    I can vouch for Rick. He has no ax to grind. He lives with Mexicans. We live in a condo and all the other owners are Mexican (except us). They look out for us and try to help us. It is similar to what our neighbourhood in Vancouver was like but even friendlier.

    By mid-March there had been 12 violent deaths YTD in Vancouver, mostly drug-related. By comparison, PV is very safe. Here is a youtube from the spring break crowd:

  4. Bill Koller Says:

    Dear Readers,

    I moved to what is now called the Riviera Maya to a secluded Bay north of Tulum Quintana Roo early 1997. During my time here I have NEVER had a problem and even leave my open backed Pickup truck parked on the street filled with goods and have NEVER been robbed. Try that in Duluth.

    Regarding this so called H1N1 Influenza Pandemic, we have not had ONE (1) case in the entire State yet because of fear mongering by the media (must have a FEAR story) and North American Travel Industry concentrating on keeping tourist dollars North of the border first we have a vast county filled with killers, an unaffordable vacation destination ( the dollar now buys almost 40% more pesos than it did last summer so vacationing here is really much less expensive than in the US or Canada) and now if you come you will die from the H1N1 Virus! You are more likely to be mugged, robbed and catch the Virus in Duluth.

    Fact, each year the normal influenza,the one everyone (but me) takes a shot for kills 36,000 people worldwide. So far we have had 12 deaths from the H1N1 Virus and 231 confirmed deaths and all from overcrowded and grossly polluted areas of the DF (Mexico City)and other similar areas.In addition the H1N1 Virus lack a key Amino Acid which make it difficult to live in humans (or at least slows its reproduction)

    As the man said, take normal precautions, do nothing illegal, wash your hands, and enjoy a chilled margarita on our beaches.

    And the truth will out!

    Casa Playa Maya

  5. patricia beatty Says:

    RIGHT ON !!

  6. vincente Says:

    im envious and love the Yucatan,been 4 times and miss it much.People very kind and never encountered any problems …. adios y te veo!

  7. Jeff Storey Says:

    Having practically lived in Yucatan during the 70’s and 80’s we never felt a glimpse of danger even though my Yucateco in-laws were a bit paranoid. My jeep was wide open and nothing was ever touched and our house in the early days of
    San Bruno was never bothered. Twenty years have passed until my return for a month in June-July. The population has exploded but walking the streets home haven’t. It’s still buenas noches and a smile. Love it Mean it.
    I have begun a website chronicling my getting ready to retire. It grew out of writing and convincing my family and friends to move with us.

  8. Jeff Storey Says:

    Sounds like our goal is the same. People only hear the news about northern Mexico and that is as far from Yucatan as Michigan is.

  9. Avery Deberry Says:

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