This family did! Read their story in the Washington Post, here.
This family did! Read their story in the Washington Post, here.
Birding in a Mexican Nature Reserve” to learn more.
Mérida, the ambrosial capital of Yucatán, serves up Mayan culture, historic architecture, and more riffs on pork belly than you can imagine. Expat power couple David Sterling and Keith Heitke share their favorites here.
Three new museums open in the Yucatán that you won’t want to miss. Read the SF Gate article here.
Thinking of moving to Mexico? Have kids? You’ll want to read “8 Powerful Lessons I have Learned from a Year of Mexican Adventures.”
We just read (and really enjoyed) this 97 page pdf book written by Yucatango in Mérida. While some of the information is specific to Mérida, most of it would be useful for anyone considering life as an expat in México. Especially interesting are all her insights into interpersonal relationships. Here’s the link to her blog post with the link to the free book.
If you love México and haven’t been to Mérida, I bet you have been wanting to go. If you’ve been there, I bet you want to go back. It is a beautiful, friendly, and proud city that will capture your heart, I promise. Christine Delsol wrote recently in the SF Gate about Mérida in her article Maya Traditions Alive in México. If her article doesn’t convince you it’s time for a visit, look above where it says Reports By State and pick the Yucatán. After that you’ll be booking your tickets, I promise!
Seattle Times writer Carol Pucci loves to travel to México. This time she is writing about Mérida, Yucatán. You really want to read In Mérida, Every Weekend is a Holiday.
The (self-named) Neurotic Foreigner, William Lawson, is a Canadian who has lived in (and written about life in) the Yucatán for more than 20 years. He writes a blog – Lawson’s Yucatán – that is always varied and interesting. If you’re visiting the area, you might want him to take you on a driving tour, here’s his site: William Lawson’s Yucatan Excursions.
We think you’ll enjoy reading his latest blog post, titled You’re Safe in the Yucatan – A Real Life Example. After you’ve read it, I’m sure you’ll enjoy browsing through the rest of his blog. After that, we think you’ll go directly to book your travel to México.
The Daily published an opinion piece by Elizabeth Eaves today titled The Truth Across the Border. I am always happy to read a balanced piece about México. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing her perspective.
Theresa has lived in Mérida, Yucatán, for a number of years, and writes a blog titled What do I do all day? She’s noticed that Mérida seems to be a vortex for talented people.
Here’s her blog post, titled Merida is a Vortex. It really is a special place we think you’ll want to explore.
Marc has lived in the Yucatan for a number of years. When you read his post, be sure to continue on and read the comments, too… many of them by folks who have lived in México a long time, too.
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.
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:
A frightening statistic that we often see repeated on the anti-Mexican, anti-travel, possibly racist, but certainly xenophobic “scare blogs” is the one about the number of “non-natural” deaths reported in Mexico. Some sites report that 27% (though we have seen percentages as high as 35%) of all “non-natural” deaths of Americans outside of their home country occur in Mexico. Those are big, scary numbers, and they are designed to elicit fear in the reader, to sell newspapers, and to perpetuate the myth that Mexico is some kind of lawless Wild West, inhabited by tequila-soaked gunslingers. The problem is, those numbers, well, kind of lie.
Here’s the trouble: To begin with, let’s discard those big, scary percentages, and figure out how many people we are talking about. It turns out that, in the last six years (or at least, until November, 2008), 1,300 American citizens have died in Mexico due to “non-natural” causes. [Source: US State Department]
To put that into perspective, in the year 2005, about 117,000 Americans died in America due to “accidents.” In the same year, 2005, 19,656 Americans died by “falling unintentionally.” 32,691 were killed by “poisoning,” and 4,248 were killed by “drowning.” [Source: US Center for Disease Control] Remember, this is in ONE YEAR, 2005.
What can we extrapolate from the above data? Many, many, many more Americans die in America each year due to “non-natural” causes than anywhere else in the world.
There is, however, something else that is misleading about the “non-natural” death statistics quoted on anti-Mexico websites, and that is the term “non-natural.” Did you know that, as reported by the US State Department, “non-natural” includes both drowning and motor vehicle accidents? In fact, when you actually look at the statistics, American deaths in Mexico are almost all due to drowning and motor vehicle accidents.
Why this high amount of drowning and traffic accident deaths? Because some people come to Mexico to party. And when they party, they drink. And when they drink too much, they forget how to do things like swim and operate heavy machinery. And even in that case, there are still far, far, far more drownings and car accidents in the USA, than by Americans in Mexico.
The problem with playing the statistics-comparing game is that, through careful wording and methodology, statistics can be used to prove almost any point. When used as a persuasive or argumentative talking point, this renders them pretty meaningless. There is something willfully disingenuous, though, in using the “30% of all non-natural deaths of Americans outside of the United States occurs in Mexico” phrase as the basis for argument or discussion about the relative safety here. There is something about that phrase that almost makes it seem like one in three Americans traveling to Mexico will be killed, and that’s simply not the case.
In fact, as an American living in America, you’re probably smarter to be worried about being killed by lightning, by a vending machine falling on you, or by alligators. These present much, much greater a threat, than travel to Mexico.
Be wary and question the motivations of those “sources” which use hysterical language, those which are operated by the grieving parents of accident victims, or those of the fearmongering media. Mexico is beautiful. Mexico is safe for tourists. And Mexico is right in your backyard.
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:
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….
To help put the relative danger of travel in Mexico into perspective, we have prepared this map illustrating distances between the hotspots identified by the US State Department, and major tourist destinations. Please feel free to distribute this file, or download our print-quality PDF.
“Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.”
“Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.” -Mark Twain
There is a whole lot of time and energy being expended on the internet about how dangerous it is in Mexico. I was looking at some news online, and the headline “Mexico Morgues Run Out of Room” caught my eye. I thought that it would be about the incredible red tape that you need to fill out when someone dies here, or maybe that morgues haven’t kept up with population growth. Something piqued my morbid interest. It turned out to be this story about the morgue in Cuidad Juarez.
When I went to college it was mandatory that you took a class in Critical Thinking or Logic. Is that not a requirement for a journalism major? Or is it a matter of choosing the wrong word and relying on spell check? Shouldn’t the title be “Mexican Morgue Runs Out of Room” as in, a specific morgue in Mexico, not all morgues in Mexico?
How would that logic problem go?
The morgue in Cuidad Juarez is running out of room. Cuidad Juarez is in Mexico. Therefore, all morgues in Mexico are running out of room. True or False?
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I feel perfectly safe here.
Oh, there is petty crime. I wrote about my experience with an unsuccessful pickpocket here. One time, Husband left a bag from the pharmacy on top of an ATM machine, and someone walked off with it. Another time we had a guy come running after us with an ATM card that we had left behind. Actually, the second scenario is the more likely one. Our neighbor had a taxista drive to her house, after his shift ended, to deliver her purse that she had left in his taxi. The other day I accidentally gave the pizza delivery guy a $500 peso note instead of a $50, and told him to keep the change. He shook his head and handed me back the $500 peso note! I hear about that sort of thing all the time.
When we were living down the street from the bus terminal, we had someone walking by in the wee hours steal stuff from our car. The car was in our carport, but the gate was unlocked. The car was unlocked, and the stuff was visible.
When we lived in California, my locked Honda was broken into while in our driveway, as well as our pickup truck that was on the street. They took my radio and trashed the car looking for hidden money or drugs. The police told us that they had a rash of car break-ins that night in our residential district.
While our current house was being remodeled, a pair of thieves noticed our contractor bring in our boxed ceiling fans. While he was getting more stuff, they sneaked into the house and made off with them. Fortunately, our contractor chased and caught them. These guys were on their way home, just having been released from jail in Cancun for theft! So back to jail they went.
This doesn’t compare to the 4 times I have been burglarized in the USA. When I was in college, someone broke into my apartment, stole my jewelry and my roommate’s valuables, then came back two weeks later to steal any replacements.
When I lived in Las Vegas, someone stole two of my dogs out of our backyard! The house next door was a rental. I glanced over the fence after the neighbors had sneaked out during the night, and saw a trail of my possessions in their yard! They had made a hole in the fence and into our storage shed, and made off with our stuff!
While we were on vacation someone broke down our front door, ransacked the house and stole everything that seemed valuable, twice, in the three years that we lived there. I can’t imagine that happening here.
So yeah, Mérida is not perfectly crime free, but if you read the police report (sucesos de policía) in the Diario de Yucatan, the crimes are pretty mild. Out of eighteen entries, there are two robberies (one of which was committed by a man from California!), one drug arrest, a probable arson (listed twice), and two missing people. The rest are related to either traffic accidents or family law.
What would be on the blotter in a comparably sized city NOB? I don’t worry about being assaulted, kidnapped or robbed. We lock our doors, but don’t wake up with every strange noise. I am not fearful of strangers. There isn’t a single neighborhood in this city of over a million people that I would be nervous walking in at night. I certainly don’t feel compelled to lock the car doors and roll up the windows while traveling in strange places. I have never ever feared for my safety here.
While 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.
After reading through some of the excellent recent submissions here, I was thinking about the general day-to-day of the security precautions we take while living on the beach here in Yucatan. Here, then, is one made-up day, which describes our (very real) security measures, or lack thereof, the (very real) incidents we have experienced, shrunk to a (very compressed) timeline.
2:00AM: We wake up, hearing a strange noise, with barking dogs late at night. Careful surveillance and a walk out to the beach reveals nothing. Everyone in the house goes back to bed.
7:00AM: We wake up again and start the day, realizing that we have left the door from the living room to the beach open, in the dark, for five hours. Though we feel dumb, we note that nothing is stolen, and no one seems to have entered.
7:30AM: I can’t find my wallet. It’s not in the back pocket of my jeans, where it usually is.
7:34AM: I find my wallet shoved in the center console of our unlocked car, in plain view. It has been left there overnight, with three credit cards and 2,000 pesos in cash inside. Everything is intact.
9:00AM: In preparation for a trip to Merida, I find that my sneakers, which were admittedly very cool, very Northern, and very unavailable here, have turned up missing after being left outside on the sidewalk for three days. The gate at the front of our property has been broken and left open for months; we haven’t felt pressed to fix it.
10:10AM: After arriving in Merida, and leaving our car unlocked, I visit the bank to withdraw money to pay for a significant remodeling project on the house. I walk out of the bank with 75,000 pesos in my pocket. I am not nervous, as I walk the streets.
10:30AM: I return to the car, to find the police standing around my car. They have caught a thief, in the middle of breaking into our car, and by breaking in, I mean, “opening the door.” Our passports, and the comprobante for our house are untouched in the unlocked glove box. All of our other stuff is returned, and we decline when asked to press charges by the police, who treat us with professionalism and courtesy.
11:45AM: We return to our home on the beach, where we find we had forgotten to lock the guest house during our trip to Merida, leaving computers, electronics, and stereo equipment unsecured. There is not a single item out of place. We vow to pay more attention.
1:44PM: Having lost the key, I cut the lock off of one of the giant, wrought-iron protectores which cover our sliding glass doors. Ultimately, I forget to replace this lock for four days. This does not cause an issue.
2:18PM: I finally get around to adding a lock to the $2,500 worth of water purification and pressurization equipment that has been sitting in our yard for months, untouched.
Examples of our carelessness go on and on. We continue to be careless, because so far, there hasn’t been much in the way of consequences. The fact is, life here bears a lot more resemblance to growing up in Midcoast Maine, where my parents spent seven years without knowing where the key to the front door was, than to the images portrayed by the media. The US press would have you believe that Mexico is one constant, gruesome parade of grenade explosions and narco-terror, but when I look out the window, it’s not what I see. Should we be more attentive? Probably. Will something of ours get stolen, at some point? Maybe. But in the meantime, crime and fear just aren’t parts of our day-to-day lives.
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.
Every day, friends and relatives write or call, wondering how in the world we can possibly be choosing to stay here, what with the constant beheadings, kidnappings, narco-trafficking, and murder. We’re generally pretty patient; most people who haven’t been here tend to imagine Yucatan in the way Hollywood has taught them to picture the rest of Mexico; dusty streets, tumbleweeds, prostitute-filled saloons, gray-market pharmacies, and men with giant mustaches, talking like Cheech and wearing twin bandoleers across their chests.
Those of us who live here, though, know that Merida has more in common with San Diego, than it does Tijuana. The Mexican government identifies Yucatan as having one of the lowest crime rates anywhere in the country, and because of this, official response to crime comes down fast and hard. The police and military are still VERY much in charge, here, and Yucatecans simply have too much pride in their state to let the problems from the northern parts of the country affect their state.
We pay attention to the local news, read the less sensational US periodicals and most importantly, remain aware of our surroundings. Yes, there were soldiers and armed and guarded checkpoints for a few weeks following the murders in Chichi Suarez. That was a forceful reaction that helped citizens and foreigners alike feel safe, as if the government is keenly on top of the situation and ready to prevent anything further from happening. It sent a message. Yucatan is clean. Yucatan is distinct. In Yucatan we act swiftly and do not tolerate violent acts quietly. We want peace and civility and safety for our children. As do all good citizens everywhere.
We are not authorities on all of Mexico. But we do know what life is like in the small pocket of the country where we are. We will be honest and we can keep you apprised. We will assure you that we are safe when we are and if something were to occur for better or worse we would share the news with our fellow ex-pats, our concerned friends and families back home, potential tourists and anyone who cares to know the truth about the situation in Mexico.
But we need your help, so as not to make generalizations and assumptions. We are here on the ground and know better than a Stateside news outlet. We are part of this place and have an interest in the welfare of the nation and its people. We have a vested interest. Let reasonable voices be heard above the shouting of fear-mongering talking heads.