Christian Science Monitor

The CSM’s reporter for Latin America, Sara Llanes, visited Merida a few weeks ago to find out if what she suspected was true… that expats who live and work in Merida Yucatan feel a lot safer here than most media is reporting. Sure enough, she found a lot of us who felt that way. And it wasn’t just the two of us who escorted her around to show her the sights. We stopped to talk to some expats who were renovating a home on Calle 53. This was unplanned and unannounced. Sara talked to the two of them, and to a Yucatecan couple who just happened to be walking down the street. Her planned meetings with Dan and Martha went expectedly well too. And, as a result of her weekend here, which she and her husband (who both live in Mexico City) thoroughly enjoyed, we have this article: American Expats Feel Safe South of the Border

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Why Invest in Mexico?

A writer/blogger for Conde Nast Traveller writes about why it makes so much sense to invest in (and live in) Mexico, despite the news about the drug war, the swine flu and whatever else comes next. http://jeffmusto.com/blog/the-new-global-economic-reality/

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Maybe It Wasn’t Mexico’s Fault

In today’s New York Times, the reporter says there is evidence it didn’t start in Mexico at all. So just forget everything you’ve read over the last few months…

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Two New Videos on Merida and Mexico

Two New Videos on Merida and Mexico

Mitch Keenan is the owner and founder of the Yucatan’s oldest real estate company, Mexico International. Before moving here fifteen years ago, Mitch worked for Continental Airlines based out of Denver. As a flight attendant, Mitch traveled throughout South America, Asia, Europe and the United States. In this video, he talks about the relative merits of living in Merida and whether or not he feels safe living here.

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The video was produced (by Eclectec SA de CV) to inspire people to attend a series of seminars that Mitch and his colleagues will be giving in cities around the United States over the next nine months. For more information about those seminars, visit the Mexico International website.

And while we’re on the subject of videos and Mexico, here’s one from the Mexico Tourism Board that just came out:

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The Truth Straight From Texas

CNN’s Anderson Cooper and his ilk roll into El Paso and tell the world how horrible it all is. Here’s the straight scoop from a reporter for the Texas Observer. As Melissa del Bosque puts it, all those fences and guns look sexy on television but she and her fellow El Pasoans have to live with all of that…

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More Support For Mexico Truckers

The American Frozen Food Institute joined with 140 other companies to urge Obama to end the cross-border trucking dispute with Mexico. It’s good to see that there are a lot of people who are beginning to speak out to end the injustice…

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From the Great White North

Our friend Jon Tevlin just came back from a trip to Merida… and he filed this report in the Star Tribune in Minneapolis-St.Paul. He found himself eating ice cream in a sunny central plaza in Merida, wondering what all the fuss was about…

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Clinton says the U.S. must Share the Blame

Hilary Clinton said today that the United States shares the blame for drug trafficking and the attendant violence. She added that the U.S. needs to stop the flow of guns and other supplies into Mexico… and she mentioned that she honeymooned here.

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Amerca’s Distorted Views Can Have Costly Consequences

NY Times article about Mexico by Enrique Krauze, author of the famous Mexico, Biography of Power.

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Apparently, We Aren’t the Only Ones Who Have Noticed…

Apparently, We Aren’t the Only Ones Who Have Noticed…

I just read an article by Arthur Frommer, the famous travel book writer, who talks about how his daughter stood up to a popular Fox News host about the lies being spread about the dangers of visiting Mexico. You can read that article here:

http://www.theledger.com/article/20090321/NEWS/903225015/1326?Title=TV-Blamed-for-Fear-of-Mexico

But then I did as he instructed, and went to www.crooksandliars.com and searched on “Mexico”. Oh my goodness… the things that Fox News is reported to be saying about Mexico will make your toes curl.

And this morning, according to the L.A.Times, there is a report about Hilary Clinton’s recent visit to Mexico and Obama’s upcoming visit.

Things certainly are getting interesting….

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On The Subject of Safety…

On The Subject of Safety…

Mexico Cross Border TruckingWhile we’re on the subject of safety, let’s talk about trucking. Yes, trucking… as in those big 18 wheelers, those beautiful horrible monsters of the highway. According to NAFTA, there was supposed to be free-wheeling between Mexico and the United States for ten years already. So why isn’t this happening? If you operate from your gut feeling about this, from what you “know” because you’ve been hearing and reading about it all your life, you’re probably thinking “Well, of course. We have such stringent safety laws in the United States. We can’t allow Mexican trucks in the U.S. because they don’t live up to our standards.”

According to MexicoTrucker.com, you would be so very wrong.

Apparently the FY09 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that will be funding our government through September 2009, and was admittedly full of earmarks and pork (the last one, we hope!), carried with it a hidden poison pill for relations between Mexico and the United States. The bill pulled the funding for the Mexican Cross Border Demonstration Program, ending a very successful 18 month program. A program that saw no accidents, no violations and increased profitability for both the US and Mexican trucking companies that participated.

And, as a recent Department of Transportation report warned, pulling the funding ‘will likely result in retaliation from Mexico’.

After reading up on the issue, our only reaction was “Who could blame them?”. Since NAFTA was approved, powers that be within the United States have been finding every reason in the world to block the provision that allows truckers to pass over the border between Mexico and the United States to deliver the goods “freed up” by the NAFTA accord. Mexico has patiently met every objection, jumped through every hoop and continued to play the game even when the United States kept moving the goalposts.

But this time, Mexico said Ya basta! (loose translation: Enough already!)

Mexico will be imposing tariffs of 10% to 20% on many of the goods shipped into Mexico in retaliation. At first we thought that these tariffs would mean that we are going to be paying more for certain goods that we like that are shipped here from the United States. Things like Christmas trees, dates, almonds, pears, cherries, peanuts, onions, juices, soups, mineral water, wine, artists supplies, aftershave, plasticware, blank books, books, yarn, carpets, glassware… the list goes on. The list mostly consists of things that can be purchased from other countries, especially India and China, both trading partners of Mexico.

Mexico is the third largest trading partner of the United States, by the way, behind China and Canada.

So what is this going to mean, besides a higher price for dental floss? It’s going to mean lower sales for companies in the United States… companies already hurting from the economic situation we all find ourselves in today.

There are, of course, many sides to this issue. There is a lot of history here, too. We encourage you to read up on the subject on MexicoTrucker.com, whose writer, Porter Corn, is thoroughly educated and informed on this subject matter.

One thing we have taken away from our research and reading on this subject that we would like you to also understand. Remember that Mexican Cross Border Demonstration Program? The Mexican participants were every bit as safety conscious and had just as good a record as their American counterparts. And statistics prove that this is not an exception. Since 1982 when over 350 Mexican carriers were ‘grandfathered’ into an agreement that allowed them to operate in the United States, Mexican carriers have had a better safety record than American carriers.

So you have to ask, “Who is really being served here?”. We encourage you to read the following articles to find your own answers to that question.

Congress Doesn’t Respect NAFTA

Mexican Trucking Cross Border Program Ends, For Now

Trade Wars Are Stupid…

The List of Items with Retaliatory Tariffs (downloadable PDF)

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Musings from Merida…

Musings from Merida…

Those of us who have lived here for awhile are used to the way Mexico is treated in the media in the United States. Articles are either about wonderful places to travel or about how dangerous it is here. A few months ago, there was a noticeable uptick in the number of negative articles about Mexico. Murder, violence, danger… the drums were beating louder. Then there was an article about the two most potentially dangerous countries in the world: Pakistan and… Mexico! Then the U.S. State Department put out a travel warning, and it seemed everyone was writing about how dangerous it was going to be for college students on Spring Break to go to Mexico.

We pondered all this last night as we walked the dogs through the streets of downtown Merida. Not just any streets, but a neighborhood deep in a colonia south of the Plaza Grande, a place we had once been warned to stay away from because it was dangerous. Now we live here, in San Sebastian, one of the old neighborhoods in Merida’s centro historico. Once upon a time, this was a place of intense poverty and desperation. It still isn’t a neighborhood of manicured lawns and swimming pools, but desperation? danger? Not hardly.

The two dogs and two humans walked slowly through the streets, lit by streetlights and moonlight and the light spilling from the many open doors. In Merida, often the coolest place in your house is on the front step, where the breeze blows by, and it is traditional for people to take their chairs outside and set up light housekeeping in front of their house on the sidewalk. Each block had three or four families gathered around their front door last night, talking, laughing, listening to music. We know each other by sight, and they waved or greeted us as we walked by. “Buenas noches!” “Buenas noches!” The children squeal because the dogs are big and full of energy. At one door, a man is selling unfinished pine furniture… We stop and ask him about it because we’ve never seen him before. How much is the table? Does he make things to order? His friends ask us if the dogs bite, and when we answer “no, they’ve already eaten tonite”, they laugh with us, and we continue on to the park.

At the park by the San Sebastian Church, there are probably fifty young men playing a few games of basketball on the lit courts. The unlit baseball field behind them is fairly empty and we let the dogs run offleash for awhile in the dark, looking at the stars and listening to the distant sound of a TV coming from the cocina economica on the other side of the wall. We walk by later and notice that it’s a quiet night there tonite… only a few tables full of patrons watching television, visiting and eating something that smells delicious.

On the way home, some of the streetlights are not lit and the street is dark except for the passing lights of cars or busses. We wonder how someone reading all those articles would feel right now. Would they be afraid? Because we are not afraid, and we realize we are never afraid walking the streets of Merida. We are not worried that we are going to be shot, because Mexico doesn’t allow ordinary citizens to own guns. There are policemen everywhere in Merida, and it has always been that way. Merida is known as one of the safest places in Mexico and we have seen, heard or read nothing to change that. We feel safe here. We ARE safe here.

When we get home, as we’re lying on the roof looking up at the stars and moonlit clouds, we talk again about our safety. We have walls and locks on the front door and we take the normal precautions. But within our home, we don’t lock every door. We live an indoor/outdoor life and we have been doing that for seven years, with no breakins, no burglaries. One night, we didn’t close the front door well, and the wind blew it open. We slept through that and came downstairs in the morning to a wide open front door. But nothing was taken, nothing had happened. Everything was just the way we had left it the night before. Every so often, we are awake in the middle of the night. We open the front door for the breeze and let the cat walk outside. Before long, a policeman drives by. Everything okay? Thank you officer, everything is fine. We are always struck by how polite and respectful they are.

We can count on one hand the violence that we have heard about in our community in seven years. Those beheadings in ChiChi Suarez, a few miles from here, and another one in Garcia Gineres… that’s it. And those weren’t normal citizens; they were people caught up in the drug war, working for the narcotrafficantes. No one who was innocent was hurt. Not like the spectacular killings we read about in the United States, where an ex-boyfriend dresses up like Santa Claus and blows away the whole family.

So now we are wondering, who is this news serving? Who has suddenly decided that it is time to paint Mexico as the new bad guy? Whose interests are served by the prospect of sending troops to the border, and increasing military support to Mexico? Now that the economy is melting down in the United States, and we have plans for pulling out of Iraq, who might be worried about their profits or their influence?

As the night got later, and the moon rose, the city quieted down and went to sleep. The barking dogs stopped their nightly communication and the roosters stopped mistaking the moon for dawn, and the busses went to sleep… and so did we. Safe in Merida, Mexico. We’re worried about the future, about our safety, our finances. There are a lot of things to worry about these days. But one thing we aren’t worried about is the danger of living in Mexico.

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