The picture, in which I’m all sweaty from climbing pyramids and look like I’m dying, shows how we feel about the mainstream portrayal of Mexico.
When we meet with other “gringos”, whether expats/Mexico residents, or long-time tourists, or new travelers like ourselves, a frequent and inevitable topic of conversation is: “Isn’t it terrible what’s being said and what people in the States believe about Mexico?”
The absolute paranoia in the United States over Mexico is amazing. Before we came here, we’d read dozens of reports from riders in the region, so we felt safe coming here. Even so, when absolutely everyone we talked with expressed horror and warning, we felt a bit shaken.
Boy are we glad we listened to common sense instead of paranoia. Mexico is a country, not a war zone or a vast drug cartel. People live here, raise children here, go to the store here. It’s a wonderful place and I plan to come back every year.
When we compare notes with other travelers, we hear amazing stories of generosity and care. I’ve never felt cheated or that I was given a “gringo price”. When I’ve tried to pay the wrong amount, I’ve been patiently corrected. I’ve never felt unsafe, unwelcome, or even in a foreign country. Everywhere folks listen patiently and do their best to guide you.
I have enough Spanish to get by, but our riding buddy Wayne didn’t have any Spanish. In his many adventures through Mexico, he experienced astounding generosity from the Mexican people. He tells his stories better than we can, but they include strangers guiding him after he broke his glasses, a free gift of glasses, and numerous instances of hospitality from complete strangers. As Wayne said, “Maybe once I was lucky. Maybe twice. Three times – well, okay. But four times and five times and more? There’s something else going on here.” Wayne took a poll of everyone he met. Everyone said the same thing: Mexico is great, the people are wonderful, and the news reports do this great country wrong. He concluded: “This is the Mexico that I have found.” (emphasis his)
Here are some suggestions to avoid the paranoia and disinformation you’re fed if you’ve never made it down here:
- Consider the source. Most of the people that say never to come to Mexico, have never been to Mexico. Think about that. The most vehement and negative opinions seem to come from those least qualified to give an opinion. What “everyone knows”, just ain’t so.
- When you read a bad news story, consider the odds. If you think Mexico isn’t safe because there are shootouts in Juarez, then you shouldn’t visit the United States because the New Orleans projects are unsafe at night, Los Angeles barrios are unsafe, and Washington DC suburbs are unsafe. Same logic, y’all. Mexico is a really big country, and the news only talks about the bad stuff.
- When you read a bad news story, take a second look. When someone dies down here, usually they were doing something stupid. We’re not saying always. Innocent people die here just like in the States; we know of missionaries that got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it’s rare, and much more rare than you think.
- Why did that guy get thrown out of a second-story bar window in Juarez? (a) he was in Juarez; (b) he was drunk in a bar; (c) he was hitting on some guy’s girl; (d) all of the above.
- Why did that guy get jumped in Acapulco? T or F: He was high on the street at 2 in the morning because he was partying after graduation.
- Why did that guy die in a drive-by? (a) He was minding his own business; (b) he was buying/dealing drugs; (c) he insulted Mexicans and their mothers 15 minutes prior.
- Pay attention to the retirees and tourists. We’ve met many, many people that have retired here or have been snowbirding and visiting for 20 years. They love it here.
- Come here. We Americans need to get out more. It’s good for ya. Make up your own mind. Go to the small towns, especially Oaxaca or Puerto Escondido or San Cristobal, steer clear of Mexico City or Acapulco or the border towns.