Welcome to Mexico!
By Victoria Schmidt
“Violence in Mexico…News at 11”
Hardly a week goes by without one of my family or friends calling or writing to me asking about “all the violence” in Mexico. News of all the violence and killings taking place in Mexico are headline news in the United States and Canada. There are hour-long specials on all the networks about the drug business and the violence it bring to Mexico. Our family and friends worry about our safety. Our country issues travelers alerts. Some people have gone so far as to change vacation plans, or postpone their retirement while they look into the issue.
But how bad is it? There are, indeed, truly dangerous and odious crimes being committed by the drug cartels. The “hot spots” seem to be border towns and Mexico City. There are claims that between 6-7000 people have been killed in the past 18 months as Mexico President Calderon has been cracking down on drug running and the drug cartels. People hear this figure and gasp in horror—as they should. The death of one individual because of this illegal activity is shameful. But in all fairness, what are the numbers in the United States and Canada for that same time period? That answer is not easy to find. I did a little research about the United States, and I’d like to share with you my response to one of my sisters who wrote sharing her concerns:
“You asked about the violence in Mexico: Personally, I wouldn’t go near a border town right now. And I’d be very careful of Mexico City. That said there are many places in the United States I wouldn’t go to either. Or I’d be darn careful if I did go there. Los Angeles isn’t the safest city in the USA, but people still go to Disney Land. Raw statistics: Here in Chapala, we live in the State of Jalisco. In Jalisco, which holds the second largest city in Mexico, Guadalajara, (population of approximately 7 million), there were 141 murders due to the drug trade in the past 18 months. Which, by comparison, is slightly higher than that of the 124 murders from all causes in the state of Minnesota (population of approximately 5.1 million) during the 12 months of 2007 (The most current statistics available from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.)
Another thing not highlighted much in the USA: Each year since around the year 2000, the USA averages 30,000 deaths/year due to gun violence alone. Of course, not all of these are drug related, but many of them are. If only 20% of them were drug related (and it would seem likely that it would be higher) it would equal what is going on here in Mexico.
In my neighborhood in Chapala, I feel free to walk my streets anytime during the day or night. Of course, when I do go out at night, I am careful, I walk with my cane, and don’t carry cash and have my dog with me. (Remember, I said I felt safe, but I’m also not careless.)
I find that the news media in the USA is not always “fair and balanced” and no one is really “keeping them honest.” But that is a subject for a later time. Bottom line: the majority of Mexico is as safe as the majority of the United States.