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Understanding The Media Assault on Mexico


As published in Cabo Social Magazine Issue #16 (September - December, 2010)


Before jumping in with how ridiculous the safety in Mexico topic is, lets first discuss “Mexico.” It is the misuse of the word Mexico that has blown this subject way out of proportion. Mexico is a country, and a very large nation at that, spanning nearly 500 million acres. Within Mexico, there are 31 states and within those states are scores of cities and towns. The majority of the world’s mainstream media however, seems to be either insensitive or oblivious to this fact. It is constant and unrelenting, as if every square mile of Mexico is unsafe. If an incident occurs in Mexico, most media outlets do not emphasize the city and state of the episode. Instead, the fear mongers keep it simple, generalizing and typecasting the incidents into one simple word, “Mexico.”


It is not odd for people living in a media-driven society, such as the US, to be concerned about traveling to Mexico, not while in an earshot of mainstream media’s relentless assault on Mexico. If I were still living in the US today, I would probably feel the same anxiety about traveling south of the border. The US media really is that good –its power and money are massive and its influence can move vast majorities of the entire world.

Cabo in relation to real danger


To understand safety in Cabo, one must first posses geographical knowledge of Mexico. The majority of Mexico’s physical area is actually safe. There are only areas, epicenters if you will, which should be respected as potentially dangerous regions. Knowing where Mexico’s danger zones are, in comparison to Los Cabos is key to understanding how safe Cabo actually is.


The core of Mexico’s violence is drug related and takes place in the city of Juarez (pronounced hWA-rez) in the northern state of Chihuahua. Juarez is actually only two miles from El Paso, Texas –yes in the US, and some 1,800+ miles (by car) away from sunny Los Cabos, at the southernmost tip of Baja. In fact, the US cities of Tucsan, Phoenix and Palm Springs are all far closer to Juarez than Los Cabos is.


Not only is Los Cabos many miles from the core of Mexico’s drug violence, but Los Cabos is, historically-speaking, a very safe group of cities in the equally safe state of Baja California Sur.


Beyond the substantial physical separations between Los Cabos and violent hot spots like Juarez, lies a significant social divide too. The majority of the violence in Juarez and other danger zones near the Mexico-US border are associated with the trafficking of narcotics into the US. Unless you are planning to infiltrate Mexico and take a crack at the drug trade, then it is even more unlikely that you will find yourself in a violent drug related clash.

Should you visit Cabo?


If you are reading this article here in Cabo, congratulations, you are in paradise. You are probably nodding your head in agreement while sipping a margarita, and looking forward to sharing this article with your skeptical peers that warned you of dangerous Mexico before you came.


If you are not here, then you will have to decide that for yourself. As for me, I have lived here for nearly six years now and have absolutely no plans to leave any time soon. Before Cabo, I enjoyed life in Boca Raton, Chicago, Del Mar, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Oshkosh and beyond, and I can honestly say that I feel just as safe or even more so here in Los Cabos, Mexico –home sweet home.



Derrick Grahn, Publisher of Cabo Social Magazine


For additional information, articles are included on a recent article discussing safety in Cabo San Lucas


Which is the 'Failing State'?


June 17, 2011 – Mexico and the United States


Northern California's Louis Kruk sailed to Mexico about four years ago with his sweetheart Laura Willerton aboard their Beneteau 42 Cirque. They only intended to cruise Mexico for about four months, but they enjoyed it so much they've been doing it every winter since.



(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

The Cirque crew have been happily -- and safely -- commuter cruising in Mexico for four years.

Photo Courtesy Cirque

© 2011 Latitude 38 Publishing Co., Inc.


For those of you who are thinking about cruising to Mexico, or are just interested in our neighbor to the south, Kruk forwarded a report on the country by Louis E.V. Nevaer that appeared in New America Media. It's not sailing specific and it's rather long, so if you're not that interested in the general subject of Mexico, ignore it. But for those who care, it provides a very different view of Mexico than is normally presented in the United States media, one that Kruk thinks more Americans should hear about.


MERIDA, Mexico— At a time when the United States is confronting the possibility of a “double dip” recession, Mexico’s economy is expanding at the fastest pace in a decade.


For most of the 20th century, Mexicans lamented that when the U.S. economy slowed down, Mexico, ever so dependent on its neighbor to the north, suffered a recession. “When the U.S. gets a cold, Mexico gets pneumonia,” was a familiar saying among officials and executives on both sides of the border.


When the global recession hit in 2008, it seemed the same pattern would hold true again: In 2009, Mexico’s economy contracted 6.1 percent. Mexican officials feared that draconian immigration laws would result in the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Mexicans back to Mexico, where they would face certain unemployment. They also feared a collapse in demand for Mexican exports by recession-hit American consumers.


But the opposite has occurred. Mexico’s economy is enjoying a period of robust growth as a direct result of internal migrations away from the U.S.-Mexico border to mid-size Mexican cities, and the repatriation of investment capital from Mexicans living overseas, primarily in the U.S.


The Central Bank's Key Role


As the global recession unfolded, Mexican President Felipe Calderon relied on Agustin Carstens, director of the central bank, to steer a financial policy for the nation. The result has been stunning.


Mexico’s gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 5.5 percent in 2010, and it is on track to grow 4.5 percent this year. Carstens is now being mentioned as a leading candidate to take over the International Monetary Fund after Dominique Strauss Kahn’s abrupt resignation. Other equally competent Mexican officials have worked to spur internal economic development. Finance Minister Ernesto Cordero, for instance, has made a point of focusing on internal growth rather than exports.


“It’s much more balanced growth with a much more dynamic domestic sector,” Cordero told reporters in Mexico City recently, emphasizing the Calderon administration’s emphasis on fueling domestic demand.


Middle-Class Resilience


The result has been an invigoration of Mexico’s middle class. Given the sluggishness of the U.S. economy, Mexican professionals — once lured to the U.S. by Fortune 500 companies — are seeking opportunities in mid-size Mexican cities. This, in turn, is fueling new economic activity and encouraging domestic demand.


In the decade since 9/11, when U.S. officials made it more difficult for Mexican citizens to secure tourist and work visas, Mexicans have opted for alternatives. A case in point is the rapid economic development taking place in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Unable to send their kids to Orlando, Mexicans have sent them to Cancun. Unable to seek medical care in Miami, they have traveled to Merida. Prevented from purchasing vacation homes in Palm Springs, they have invested in Playa de Carmen.


Where Americans can't find the money to fill in potholes, Mexico is accepting bids for a new, world-class airport along the 65-mile Cancun-Tulum corridor that is expected to serve 700,000 passengers its first year. While the U.S. had to abandon plans for fast trains that would have linked Tampa-Orlando and New York-Washington, Mexico plans a bullet train that will link Merida’s one million residents to Cancun.


American homes languish unsold for years, while half-million dollar homes are going up in fancy Mexican communities such as the Yucatan Country Club, which boasts a Jack Nicklaus golf course and a Mark Spitz swimming academy. This economic vitality is seen in many areas of the country, far removed from the drug-related violence that plagues the border region.


The strength of Mexico’s middle class can also be measured by the maturity of its democratic institutions. In 2000, for instance, Mexico was governed by an authoritarian regime, a single-party state that controlled or co-opted the nation’s socioeconomic and political organizations. In less than a decade it has become a true democracy, one in which the president is from a conservative party (PAN), most of the governors are from a centrist party (PRI) and the country’s largest city — Mexico City — is run by a mayor from a leftist party (PRD). Had anyone predicted in 2000 that this would be political reality in Mexico by 2010, it would have seemed like a fantasy.


Internal Population Shifts


The sluggish U.S. economy and stricter immigration controls are two of the key factors driving the boom. The number of illegal immigrants to the U.S. fell from roughly 850,000 a year in the years before the recession to 300,000 a year from 2007 to 2009, according to a report from the Pew Hispanic Center.


True, many of Mexico’s poorest people still risk their lives to find menial labor in the U.S., but the semi-skilled are finding more opportunities at home. The result has been an internal migration to where the jobs are. Mexico’s Census Bureau, known as INEGI, for instance, reported a 16 percent increase in Yucatan State’s population — almost all of it from people moving in from other parts of Mexico, and not from higher birth rates.


Mexican sociologist M. Bianet Castellanos chronicles the vast influx of Maya migration to the resorts along the Maya Riviera — people who, a generation ago, would have made their way to the agricultural fields of California and the bodegas of New York. They are finding better jobs in Mexico than they would in the U.S. — and without risking their lives at the hands of human traffickers, U.S. law enforcement agents, drug warlords, or American racists who subject Mexicans in the U.S. to hate crimes.


At the same time, Mexico’s economy is being energized and diversified by the arrival of working-age Americans. A generation ago, it was not uncommon to see entire communities of American expatriates—senior citizens living on Social Security, enjoying retirements of leisure, spending the afternoons playing golf, beach-combing and sipping margaritas. Now, younger Americans are also coming to Mexico to start families and open businesses. American officials estimate that there are more Americans living in Mexico than in any other country and who are fiercely loyal to Mexico.


Drug Violence in Perspective


This economic growth, unprecedented in its strength in more than a generation, is taking place at a time when the country is facing a wave of drug war violence.


But one reason the violence is so shocking is that it is out of the norm. “In a country of more than 100 million people, the odds of being killed in a drug-related homicide in 2010 were one in 6,667, about the same as the odds of being killed in an automobile accident in the United States (about one in 6,500). The odds of being killed in Mexico’s drug violence decrease dramatically if a person is not a drug trafficker, mayor, or police officer in a disputed trafficking region,” Viridiana Rios and David Shirk write in Drug-Related Killings in Mexico, 2008-2010, published by the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego.


Fear-mongering by American writers is hardly new. “This is an attempt to understand Mexico's steep descent into turmoil,” wrote one alarmed reviewer of Andres Oppenheimer’s 1998 book, Bordering on Chaos, which lamented that Mexico was becoming a “failed state.”


Thirty years before that, Barry Goldwater was among those calling Mexico, then hosting the Summer Olympic Games, a “failed state.” Decades from now, Americans will no doubt still be uttering the same clichés. Fast forward a dozen years after Oppenheimer’s failed book, and Mexico, despite its “out of control” image, is flourishing.


Now when the U.S. catches a cold, Mexico can say, “Bless you,” and go about its business.