(Photos taken by Jo Brenzo of San Miguel de Allende from a hot air balloon)
Cedric Johnson, Ph.D. and Kristine MacKain, Ph.D
Today a friend in the USA wrote us and said that she was being told by some family members not to come to Mexico to visit us because of the continued reports of violence by the drug cartel and from those protesting the killing of the students.
We have heard similar comments made hundreds of times to the point where we are compelled to blog our response.
The fact is, taking the U.S. as a whole, one is twice as likely to be killed in the U.S. than in Mexico. And in some areas, like St. Louis, THREE times as likely to be killed in the U.S. than in Mexico. This fear about visiting Mexico is totally ridiculous, especially given the fact that the U.S. is so much more dangerous. We are not afraid to visit the United States, despite these statistics, and we are certainly not afraid to live here in San Miguel de Allende!
It is true that the drug cartel carnage in Mexico is horrific and spectacular; the press feeds on it because people are strangely attracted to horror and that sells papers. The latest carnage, the students in southern Michoacan, was truly terrible and what is even worse is apparently the mayor and his wife were in on it!
The town where those murders occurred is a 5-6 hour drive from San Miguel de Allende. Anyway, are we afraid to visit San Francisco (or eat in a restaurant in Oakland) because of the murders in Oakland? Do we not go and visit our friends in St Louis? Since 2008, we have driven all over Mexico (Michoacan, Oaxaca, Chiapas to name a few) as well as driven north across the border 16 times; the biggest problem we had during all those trips was a flat tire.
Love – The Antidote to Fear
Americans’ fearful responses to visiting Mexico are emotionally based and irrational. People who visit here regularly and live here know the truth about Mexico. That’s why they keep returning! There are over 1 million U.S. Citizens currently living in Mexico.
When people express fear about Mexico, it simply reflects their ignorance. But we’ve found that these same people don’t want to hear the facts about Mexico either. This makes us think some are prejudiced against Mexico and the people here—they want to hold on to their warped perception.
We have to surrender the impulse to try and convince people with the facts. The statistics will not convince people that Mexico is safe for travel (though we are including the latest State Department summary for Mexico travel, below, for those who are persuaded by facts).
Having said this, one trip here will do more to persuade fearful people than anything else.
VISIT MEXICO and fall in love with its warm, generous, and gentle people. Explore its beautiful, varied landscape and its ancient, diverse cultures. Become enchanted by Mexico’s strange, exotic traditions.
The other day an executive in the USA asked where we lived. One of us told him San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He replied “Aren’t you afraid!?” We did not argue with him. Instead, we told him to Google our town, voted every year by global travelers as one of the top ten places to live in the world.
When he opened the web page for our town, he said:
“Oh my god, I never realized there were any beautiful places like that in Mexico. All I have seen are the border towns…”
Our response: “Come visit and fall in love for yourself.”
Here are some reassuring facts from the (highly conservative) U.S. State Department (their recent travel advisory dated October 10th, 2014).
Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day. The Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that organized criminal groups have targeted U.S. visitors or residents based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes.
Guanajuato: San Miguel de Allende and Leon are major cities/travel destinations in Guanajuato – No advisory is in effect.