Recently International Living put Mexico in the #2 spot on their Best Retirement Havens list. That raised a lot of questions among future expats — what about safety? All we’re reading about (here in the US anyway) is how dangerous Mexico is and its problems with drug-related violence.
Last week, a friend of a friend decided to leave Lake Chapala. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s an area near Guadalajara which has become an expat magnet with the biggest concentration of US and Canadians outside of those countries.
Not exactly a narco stronghold, one would think. But after a gun battle took place just a couple of blocks away from her home, this US citizen decided to leave.
Yet, statistically, Washington, DC has a much higher rate of violent crime than Mexico City, by a 4-to-1 margin. According to a Cleveland, OH magazine, the six biggest cities in Ohio have a higher rate of murder, rape, robbery and burglary than the six biggest border cities.
A website now exists called Is It Safe to Travel to Mexico? They claim that:
“more than 95% of Mexico’s municipalities are at least as safe as the average traveler’s hometown. Yucatan state, for example, had 0.1 of a murder for every 100,000 people in 2010 – no U.S. tourist destination comes close to that. Most cities in central Mexico, outside of the scattered drug hot spots, have lower murder rates than Orlando.”
In fact, living in Orlando, I know there are parts of town I shouldn’t go to, but I don’t worry about my safety at home or while I’m going about my daily business.
So who do you believe?
Recently I received this email from a friend. She and her husband have been dividing her time between Mexico and the US for several years. (Check out her website). She wrote:
We love Mexico. We just crossed the border with our truck at Nogales this afternoon (coming into the US). It was our 5th border crossing in three months, and probably our 20th border crossing in the past 2 years. We are going back down again about 4 days from now.
The best thing about Mexico is the people — they are universally warmer, friendlier and kinder than Americans. We are very rich as a people, but it seems to me that most of us feel we didn’t get what we deserved out of the American Dream. We were raised with huge expectations, and most people I know are frustrated they aren’t a little richer. There is no Mexican Dream, so the Mexicans are all dirt poor but are content with what they have because they never expected to get anything anyways. So they come across as generally much happier than most Americans.
They put family first and they work extremely hard (most work a six-day work-week). They are ingenious and creative in trying to find ways to make a living in a country that isn’t necessarily stacked in their favor. And they have exceptional medical care that is a fraction of the cost in the US. Just this week I heard yet another tale of a cruiser having a sudden major health problem (scratched and infected cornea), and how the Mexican doctors were amazingly caring, skillful and dedicated to making sure she recovered, all done for a mere pittance…
I have felt safe everywhere I’ve been in Mexico except Mazatlan, which in one neighborhood felt a little like Roxbury, Mass., though not quite as scary. We’re going back next week to spend another 7 months cruising the coast, and my biggest concern for my safety is getting caught in bad weather when we do one of our long overnight or two-night ocean passages.
The narco violence is very frightening. But last spring the Arizona Congresswoman and a bunch of other people were gunned down by a madman at a Safeway parking lot during a political even in Arizonat. So I could get shot in my own home state going food shopping on a Saturday morning. What difference would it make if I were shot in narco crossfire in Mexico instead? Statistically, for Americans, it is probably riskier to stay home than go to Mexico.
So who knows — I think Helen Keller got it right with her profound insight into just how safe this life we are living really is:
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature nor do the children of man as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
I would never encourage you to live someplace you feel unsafe. Just keep it in perspective — Americans get shot in shopping centers, post offices and restaurants, and our children get massacred in their schools. The difference is, we’re familiar with those places.
Fear — and fear-mongering — is big business. Don’t let it keep you from a wonderful adventure!