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border US/ Mexico

The War On Mexico By Nathan Feuerberg

border US/ Mexico

Photo By David Grant

The US Department of State released a warning on June 13, 2012 that all Americans should avoid travel to Mexico.  The warning came after seven members of the Zetas cartel were arrested in Oklahoma and New Mexico.  The Department of State said in the warning that a “Transnational Criminal Organization” might engage in “anti-American” violence.

 I’ve lived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for two years.  I’ve traveled to Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Puerto Vallarta.  In all my time here I’ve never been in any sort of violent situation or seen one.  I’ve walked around at night and have never been mugged or had anyone approach me and accost me.  In fact I moved to Mexico because of how safe I felt here.  I’ve lived all over the US in many different states and in cities such as Washington DC, New Orleans, and New York.  I was tired of looking over my shoulder when I was walking home from work.  After coming here for a visit I decided to pack up my stuff and reside here permanently.  I have to say it’s been worth it.  It’s nice not living in fear.  It’s nice knowing that I can walk out my front door here in San Miguel and nothing bad will happen to me.

 When the US Department of State released it’s warning a few weeks ago I felt my hands ball up into fists.  When I watched the ABC report and former FBI agent Brad Garrett said, “Literally, Mexico is out of control,” I really wanted to hit someone.  This was supposed to be the year where Mexico’s tourism industry finally went back to normal.  We’ve struggled through the US’s weak economy, swine flu, and many drug-related warnings from the State Department.  But with this new warning telling tourists to avoid all of Mexico it looked like we were in for another slow year.

boy and man san miguelAs the person in charge of the San Miguel Writers’ Conference’s social media and blog it is my job to get people to come to Mexico every year in February for our annual literary festival.  When I got this job I was told that besides telling people about our great speakers and workshops that I should focus on articles that revealed how safe Mexico and San Miguel really are.  Some might think of me as a sort of spin-doctor taking the facts and moving them around so that Mexico sounds like a safe destination.  However, my articles do not hide the truth or leave information out in order to make things sound better.  Like anywhere in the world there is crime here and that crime is especially horrific along the US /Mexican border in places like Laredo, Texas.  Still, if you compare the statistics of violent crime in Mexico to the US, you will find that there is far more crime in the US.  According to the 2012 World Fact Book ‘s report on crime related deaths in 2011, (compiled by the CIA) the US ranked 87th for deaths per one thousand people, while Mexico ranked 188th.  The data also showed the US coming in as the number one country in the world for total reported crimes.  Mexico came in number 12.  On average, the murder rate here is 2 murders per 100,000 in most states. That’s about the same as Evansville, Indiana or Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. In Mexico City, the average is 8 per 100,000, which is low for the most populated city in the western world.

 News stories tend to focus on how dangerous it is to go to Mexico leaving out the part that it is actually more dangerous to travel within the US.  New Orleans is slated to host the 2013 Super Bowl, which will attract tourists from all over the US.  However, according to the FBI, New Orleans has a homicide rate that is three times as high as Mexico’s national rate. If you read this month’s State Department warning you will quickly realize they are basing it on an event that happened on US soil.  The criminals were laundering money in Oklahoma, not down here.  You’d think they’d issue a warning advising people not to travel to the Midwest.

girl-fountain-san-miguelThe truth is, this is about media sensationalism.  The simple fact is that stories about drug cartels and border violence make for dramatic headlines and explosive news stories.  The Mexican government can dispute this by showing the low statistics of violent crime here and point out that these are isolated drug related incidents that happened in certain areas in Northern Mexico along the border, but they are easily debased when US reporters follow this with statements like “that’s little comfort for a family thinking of going there on vacation.”

 Why do news reporters get away with it?  Well, that’s because most US citizens are afraid of Mexico.  We have a fear of the unknown.  Before I came here I pictured, (like many Americans I’m sure) poor, dirty people living in trash heaps on the side of the road begging for pennies.  I thought I would see a country torn by cartel wars and corruption.  However, that’s not what I saw.  Instead I found a country with beautiful vistas and colorful buildings, a country with prestigious universities and art galleries, a proud country rich in culture and heritage where family and children come first.

 In San Miguel we have an expatriate community of about 10,000 made up of Americans, Canadians, British, and other foreigners.  These people live here year around, own homes, and would have a little chuckle if you asked them about violence in San Miguel.  Most people here know that we are as safe living in San Miguel as if we lived in the little beach resort town of Carmel, California.  Sure every once in a while there is a serious crime, but most of the time the biggest problem is car vandalism or some drunk American college kids starting a fight in front of the local Irish pub.

Maya Jardin SMAOf course, when traveling anywhere you should do your research and make smart decisions about safety.  And I advise you to do the same thing before coming here.  Mexico is a huge country and there are places that are dangerous at the moment but many others that are not.  Look up the statistics of crime in San Miguel de Allende.  Read about how safe it is here.  Sign up for the San Miguel Civil List and ask the local expatriates about coming here and bringing your family. I’m sure you’ll find that everything I’ve written is true and that San Miguel de Allende is one of the safest places in the world.

23 Responses

  1. Great article. I’ve written a similar blog a couple of years ago titled “Keeping it in Context” with the FBI, Interpol and Mexican homicide stats. It is SO surprising to have the data to prove how safe Mexico is……….
    I live alone in San Miguel and have done so for 11 years. I drive all over Mexico, alone, including to the border into Laredo. I’ve been doing this for about 30 years. Never once have I been afraid, concerned or worried, even when having car troubles. ALWAYS had assistance from a Mexican National.
    Thankfully San Miguel is not dependent on the American tourist. Now, as always, 80% of their tourism is Mexican nationals. Viva Mexico!

  2. Rev. Joy Daley

    Thanks, Dawn! I would much rather hear it from someone who’s living there than a news person who is trying to get attention! I have always loved Mexico and it’s people, I have been reluctant to drive through the country in the last few years based on the fears generated by the media. (BTW, my cousin was murdered in that sweet little coastal community, Carmel, back in the 70’s by the Zodiac killer! In travelling , I always like to have some information with me about where I am heading, I let people know my where abouts and I use common sense! Gee, I use that here too! I’m going to live until I die!

  3. Nathan you are so right on. Last year I was living in Oakland California. During the year of 2011 there were 106 murders in Oakland. This is the number for just Oakland and does not include the rest of the Bay Area. Where is the travel warning for the Bay area. This article should be posted on all social media and I hope you also submit it to some newspapers and magazines in the USA. People need to know the truth.

  4. The media are supposed to be one of the pillars of a true democracy; their role is to properly inform the citizens when government or others mislead. Yet, for many years, the media haven’t played their role with integrity.

    San Miguel de Allende and many other fine cities and towns in Mexico are truly wonderful places to visit and to live, yet the US media keeps itself and Americans in ignorance – they are tilling the soil so that the seeds of tyranny can grow.

    1. Ksenija

      Hi Nathan, if you still check here would you be willing to get in touch with me via my email My husband and I are planing to spend a week in Mexico city and San Miguel. We plan to rent a car and drive ourselves as we have done all over the world. We keep deflecting warnings from people about the dangers of driving alone and being kidnapped etc. if you can allay some of these fears or give us some tips on what we need to pay attention to it would be very helpful. We are going next Saturday september 28. We were supposed to drive down to Acapulco originally but I guess this is a bad time for the coast. Looking forward to hearing from you.
      Ksenija, California
      (yeah and I just drove to Oakland right now)

  5. Gerry

    I am a Canadian and all we read about are the horror stories. These are not related to the drug cartel violence in the north but this criminal activity is based around the tourist resorts. Do you realise 10 Canadians have been murdered in the last 2 years at Mexican resorts? Comparatively the number of Canadians murdered at other world resorts numbers less than 2. I’ve been to Mexico many times and never encountered any problems in San Miguel.

  6. I have traveled all over Southern Mexico on buses, at night, and walked around alone at night in cities, something that I don’t enjoy doing where I live in Seattle. I have never seen anything suspicious or violent going on, and I have never been approached by anyone with bad intentions. Taxi drivers have waited until I had the front door open before driving off.

    I have tried to research the “murdered Canadians” story, and didn’t find anything in recent search results besides an incident that turned out to be a gas explosion; yes, many people died in some club in a resort town, but it was not murder. I wasn’t able to find anything substantial…

  7. patrick ebert

    Dear Nathan,

    Have you ever considered the possibility that the US government / corporations are behind the constant negative press regarding “dangerous” Mexico? Follow the money!

    10,000 baby boomers per day reach retirement age starting 1-2011 for the next 20 years, a total of approximately 73,000,000 retirees. If a mere 1 % choose to leave the US and retire in Mexico the numbers are staggering. Let’s say the 1 %, 730,000, sell their homes for an average off $300,000 and take that money to Mexico to either buy or rent a home. $219,000,000,000, 219 billion dollars leaving the US economy. If these retirees receive $1400 per month social security benefits, that equates to a billion dollars per month leaving the US. Perhaps the daily bombardment, over the past couple of years, of the”dangers of traveling to Mexico” is choreographed to prevent all this money from leaving the US.

    As Dan rather stated, “when I started in jounalism, there were approximately 60 jounalistic entities. Now there are six. 80% of which are controlled by powerful corporations.” Free unbiased information being fed to the American public, I think not.

    As Ralph Nadar so accurately stated, ” the only difference between the republicans and democrats is the velocity with which they drop to their knees when corporations come knocking at their door.”

    All the best……………Patrick Ebert

  8. Thank you, we need more articles like this one. I have lived in both Mexico City and Quintana Roo and always felt safe. I travel all over Mexico on a regular basis, I run a retreat business and have managed 9 successful retreats over the past 3 years – all in Mexico and all attended by North Americans. I am from Oakland, CA and yes – sadly – my city does have an extremely high murder rate. I have never seen a travel warning for the Bay Area! It is all about the mighty US Dollar as usual. Sad but true. Mexico deserves high praise and so much more positive publicity for its rich culture, history, delicious cuisine, and amazingly diverse landscape….a country with so much to offer, affordable to travel to and close to the US. Thanks again….

  9. Amelia Voorsanger

    Wonderful article and a well balanced presentation. Why don t you send this to Travel Magazine or NY Travel section – its information that should get out. I found my recent stay at San Miguel de Allende, for the Writer’s Conference, wonderful. I felt totally safe. I did not go to San Miguel expecting problems despite being warned by many friends to stay away. I must say that the bad press did affect how i felt about the rest of Mexico, so i am very happy to have a more balanced perspective.

  10. Yahel Arango

    Great article I agree with you 100 percent.I constantly try to encourage people to keep visiting Mexico.I personally can’t wait to go back I really don’t want to continue supporting a country fool o so many problems the energy keeps getting lower and lower here in the U.S. I will never forget the time you told me not to leave Mexico and that Itza and I would be safer there you were totally right about that and I thank you for that because I think about it every day and it keeps me reminded of all the beauty Mexico has to offer… I love you so much and keep up the fantastic work,hope to see you again some day!!!

    1. Ksenija

      Just wanted to thank Nathan publicly for his reply to me on the issue of safety and driving in Mexico. My husband and I just spent a perfectly lovely week on Mexico roads with a rental car from Mexico city to SMA to Guanajuato, Caretero and back. Besides getting lost some (could not find a good road map in Mexico andGoogle maps not working everywhere) and having trouble finding parking some places we enjoyed having our own wheels and felt very safe. People were very helpful and excited to give directions, shortcuts ,and draw maps for us.

      I also want to add that we used the underground extensively and at all hours of day and night in Mexico city and it was clean, fast, frequent, and ridiculously cheap- definitely a much better experience than in San Francisco, our home town.
      We are coming back for sure in 6 months.
      Viva Mexico!

  11. Laura Honse

    For statistics: I have been 8 months in SMA. I was robbed a few months ago and last night as I was asleep, at 2 a.m., my window was shattered and a man stood there less than two meters away from my bed. I think the problem is the enormous swing between BOTH the media and the travel businesses: con and pro. Your photographs of SMA, I would say, definitely leave out the truth. They are clean, glam photos which do not reveal the other side of the coin. I think we need to have both. And, some personal information: I have lived in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, San Francisco, New York, Barcelona, Hamburg… and this is my first experience of having my home broken into. Just stating facts.

  12. We chose San Miguel de Allende six years ago for its combination of climate, culture and the basic warmth of its people. I became interested in the process of becoming an expat and wrote a book based on conversations with 32 Americans and Canadians who had also made the move. It’s mainly a way of getting inside their heads. It’s called San Miguel de Allende: A Place in the Heart. Here’s a link to an excerpt on my website:

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