We Aren’t Traveling, We Are Already Here.
While Chris and I are so happy to know we have friends and family back home in the States thinking about us, we are feeling the need to put their minds at ease in regards to the onslaught of travel bans and restrictions that have occupied a majority of News outlets.
Let’s Start at the Beginning, What is a Travel Restriction/Ban?
A Travel Restriction/Ban is an advisory or law that prevents people from traveling somewhere. Travel bans were very common during the height of Covid-19 in an effort to #StopTheSpread, but are traditionally put in place when an area or country becomes unsafe for travelers given current crime rates, terrorism, and even war.
Why the Restrictions?
Once an American tourist is murdered travelers begin questioning whether Mexico is safe to visit – and rightfully so. However, the media does what it does best and bites down, hard, continuing to spit out more horror stories that perpetuate a stereotype that Mexico is, overall, unsafe… which is untrue. Just like sex, fear sells.
The U.S. State Department recently updated Mexico’s travel warning for U.S. Tourists traveling to Mexico due to crime in several Mexican states that are popular with American tourists. “Violent crime—such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery—is widespread and common in Mexico,” warns the State Department. With all of that being said, 35 million tourists visit Mexico each year and that’s not taking into account the 1.6 million Americans that LIVE in Mexico, according to the State Department – Mexico City being the fifth rated destination for digital nomads globally.
Briefly, the recent incident involved four Americans traveling from South Carolina to Mexico where they were ambushed in the small town of Matamoros in what is believed to be a case of mistaken identity. Once across the border, they were fired upon by unidentified gunmen, “placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men,” according to the FBI. Investigators believe the Americans were targeted by a Mexican cartel that likely mistook them for Haitian drug smugglers. For years, Matamoros has been a stronghold for various feuding criminal organizations, particularly the Gulf Cartel, which has used the city as a key pipeline for moving cocaine, meth, and fentanyl across the border into Texas — and from there across the U.S. No one should be traveling through Matamoros under any circumstances. A quick google search would have told them that it was a not smart to travel through Matamoros. While on the topic, tt is worth noting that we are 1,311 km away from Matamoros so we are very, very far away.
When it comes to crime in Mexico, cities often have more crime than rural areas simply because they have larger populations (and thus more opportunities). As long as you keep an eye out for crime hotspots (like large swaths of deserted roads) it will help prevent you from getting lost in translation with Mexican law enforcement. Safety is definitely a concern when visiting any country, however, it is worth noting that most Americans are killed because they are looking for drugs. Do you know who rules the drugs around here? The Cartel.
The Cartel Doesn’t Care About You The Way You Think They Do
Speaking of the Cartel, I worked myself up into a frenzy scrolling through the numerous articles about the cartel’s crimes. However, as I dug deeper I came across a more reassuring theme within the many independent forums that shared the same sentiment: the cartel doesn’t care about you, but not in the way you think. Outside of your money, they want nothing else. Foreigners, especially Americans, make up much of the demand that the cartels serves anyway. And we all know the adage, don’t kill your customer. Statistically, 99% of tourists who visit Mexico will not interact with the cartels or any of their members. So in short: don’t go looking for drugs and you won’t find the cartel.
It’s Like Sending Bad News About Your Neighborhood, Constantly.
When deciding whether or not to visit Mexico as a tourist it’s important to consider safety and understand the area you are traveling too. As a person with chronic anxiety that takes pleasure in listening to Crime Junkie podcasts, I am already primed to be on high alert – Do you really think we would sail into a new country without doing our due diligence? We have been preparing for this journey for years (five, to be exact) and have watched the news fluctuate regarding crime in Mexico. However, it’s worth noting most of this crime is taking place on border towns, and big cities. It is like comparing the news from Chris’s home town of Shaver Lake to the news in Los Angeles – a bit different, don’t you think? No one wants to travel somewhere that isn’t safe. However, don’t let media portrayals of Mexico fool you into thinking that Mexico is overall dangerous.
The constant fearmongering by U.S. media gets us titles like “Mexico: Where More Americans Are Murdered Than In All Other Foreign Countries Combined.” It’s no wonder people form horrible opinions about the country. Headlines like these leave out crucial details. First, Mexico is the largest tourist destination for Americans. Second, it does not provide information about where the people were or any of the details surrounding their deaths. Lastly, if this makes Mexico dangerous, Americans should not visit Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Baltimore, Detroit, or even Washington D.C., as they all had a HIGHER homicide count than the one listed above. In fact, Baltimore has a higher homicide rate than all but four of the 32 Mexican states, but I have friends and family that live there and never send them the awful news happening in their neighborhood. Most of the homicides in the aforementioned cities are related to gang violence. Guess what? So are the homicides in Mexico. It isn’t inherently more dangerous than any other place you would visit, and yet not many people would ever propose not visiting those cities.
We get it: reading about murder and the never-ending series of cartel bosses that pop up on the news is hard to ignore. However, the overwhelming majority of people killed in those news stories are other cartel members, and much of the violence is centered in areas close to the border, where the cartels hold power. As a tourist, there’s a simple solution: don’t go to those areas. Chris and I certainly have no plans or interest in going there, as we are confined to wandering in proximation to wherever our boat is. The point is: that there are problem areas everywhere around the globe, and we apply the same logic we use in the States when we are abroad. Example: Don’t go looking for trouble, and you won’t find it.
So, when I receive nothing but news articles highlighting the seemingly constant bad news I have to bite my tongue. What exactly do you expect us to do? Leave our boat, a.k.a our home, get on a plane and fly where, exactly? We are cruising in a culturally dense, beautiful, and friendly part of Mexico that continues to welcome us with open arms – we honestly felt more unsafe sailing in certain parts of California (like when a homeless lady boarded our boat in Morro Bay!) We refuse to play into the bullshit narrative that this country is overall “unsafe,” so please, keep the bad press to yourself – especially if we haven’t talked in years and you are going out of your way to send me a random link with zero context, not even accompanied by a “hello”. If you are wondering how we are doing or if we are safe, consider reaching out like a normal human and asking “how are you, where are you, are you safe” versus a random link with a scary headline – I will be deleting those from now on. Let’s have a conversation, I am always eager to share what we are up to.
Sending Love and Light
Chris and I are living our best lives here in Mexico surrounded by good friends and good times. We are currently in Banderas Bay, and thanks to our new local friends have really been able to immerse ourselves. Our Spanish is improving daily (aunque todavía no es genial) and we cannot wait to share the photos and videos with you soon to hopefully help settle your nerves. Finally, please trust me when I say: we are safe.
Marissa, Chris and Cleo