This past week Peter was down in Ixtapa, Mexico to prepare for his upcoming radio broadcast. Even passing through Mexico City’s 7.0 earthquake on Tuesday didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for travel within the country. Read his latest blog to find out why he is still traveling to Mexico and you should too.
Let me state something from the outset. I am not an unabashed apologist for Mexico, or its spokesman or an endorser. I am writing this as a veteran traveler to Mexico who has been going down there since 1973 without a single incident.
I am growing tired, and somewhat impatient with expressions of concern or worry — as well intentioned as they may be — about my traveling to Mexico.
Every time I am about to fly there — to Cancun, to Cabo, to Ixtapa, to Mexico City and many other locations — my friends, and sometimes even strangers advise me to “be careful,”, “be safe,” or worse…”watch out.”
Watch out for what? great people? great weather? great service? affordable, memorable experiences?
Most Americans share, as a group, two notable, and embarrassing traits: we are geographically ignorant and culturally insensitive. And, at every possible opportunity to travel, we embrace the worst four letter word that starts with “f”: fear.
Instead, we need to get out there and find a map. Then we need to study it to put things in proper perspective.
Yes, the drug cartel wars in Mexico have taken a terrible human toll. Depending on which figures you believe, upwards of 40,000 people have been killed in the last five years, as gangs fight other gangs. Often public displays of those deaths, those visually powerful images have created a serious public relations problem for Mexico and have allowed thousands of Americans to succumb to their fears.
This has also been fueled by a tremendous amount of misinformation and geographic stupidity.
It has now become an annual ritual for the Texas Department of Public Safety (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) to issue a press release warning Americans not to let their kids go down to Mexico for spring break because their likelihood of being killed is high. Really? No one is going on spring break to Cuidad Juarez. And I’d bet my career that the murder rate among young Americans is higher in Harlingen, Mcallen and Brownsville than it is in Cancun and Cozumel. How irresponsible of the authorities in Texas.
If the Texas authorities were really concerned about public safety, perhaps they might want to address the fact that along the Texas-Mexican border are thousands of gun stores, and they didn’t get there by accident. It is no coincidence that the overwhelming number of guns used by Mexican gangs are sold by these stores, and within three days of the purchase the weapons find themselves across the border in Mexico.
The bottom line here is that Americans are NOT being targeted in this drug war. Travel and Tourism is too big an economic factor — too crucial to the Mexican economy and to millions of Mexican jobs — to allow that to happen. There are two realities here: the multi-billion dollar drug business is not going to evaporate as long as demand — most of it from the United States — remains at record levels. And the second reality — travel and tourism remain robust in Mexico.
Last month, a group of Americans were held up at gunpoint while on a shore excursion near Puerto Vallarta. Reason to turn cruise ships around and abandon these ports? The smart money says no. This was an isolated first-time incident; any large port with thousands of passengers flowing in and out is a target for some street crime. In fact, Carnival is now considering investing $150 million in two new cruise ports on Mexico’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
I am writing this from the airport in Mexico City, where a massive earthquake hit. The buildings rocked and I ran for cover under a doorway. But as intense as the earthquake was once the electricity was restored –after being down about two minutes –every flight remained on time.
It is my 25th trip to Mexico in the last 18 months. I’m alive. I had a great time. I encourage you to do the same.
I also encourage you — no matter where you travel — to pack common sense. This applies to the information sources you use to determine your travel choices. I appreciate the intent of U.S. State Department advisories. I just question the long term negative impact of most of them. And, after all, they are just advisories.
There are places in San Francisco I wouldn’t go after dark, but it doesn’t stop me from going to one of my favorite cities. I travel to Washington, DC at least once a month, and that’s in spite of our nation’s capital having one of the highest murder rates in the world.
Many of the U.S State Department alerts bother me as well, especially when they caution that Americans should avoid all but essential travel to certain locations. Avoid essential travel? I’m one of those who would argue — strenuously — that with exceedingly few exceptions, travel is essential. Whether you are traveling to Mexico or Manhattan, to Guadalajara or Greenland — do some homework. Pack light, immerse yourself in the culture.
A true adventure doesn’t necessarily have to include a familiar, American branded hotel and a cheeseburger from room service.Sleep at the resort, but don’t live there. Get out and see the world. Challenge your comfort level every day. Travel and tourism is the most powerful tool for breaking down barriers and building understanding. If you don’t have a passport, do not pass go until you get one.
Then, when you return home, tell your friends about your adventures. Even boast about them. And about the new friends you made along the way. Does Mexico have some hard work ahead of it in the drug wars? Absolutely. A new President will take office later this year and hopefully will continue the fight against the cartels launched by current President Felipe Calderon.
But will I be going back to Mexico? That, as you may have guessed by now, is a rhetorical question.