Security and Safety in Mexico

We've told you about the highways and our greatest risk in every country - the traffic. But many of you were most worried that we'd be abducted by drug-traffickers or thrown in prison by the "federales." And some have asked us why we weren't bringing a gun (Don't bring a gun to Mexico! You'll go straight to jail if it's discovered at a border crossing!).

In terms of our everyday experience, we have to tell you that Mexico seems to be the safest country we've traveled in on our trip so far. Our perceived level of risk both to person and property is lower than in either Canada or the United States. Nobody has bothered us or our stuff in any way.

Now we'll have to admit that we're not careless travelers and we keep our eyes on our things and don't leave our bikes unattended. We're experienced third-world travelers. And if somebody says an area is dangerous, we listen carefully and try to evaluate the risks. And we also have to admit that we aren't likely to be seen as good kidnapping subjects, since there's nobody to ask for a ransom. Most people here think our bikes are pretty cool, and pretty expensive by Mexican standards, but they don't seem to think we have all that much money (or we'd be going by car, right?) So maybe our risk level is lower because we're a small target. But I don't think so. I think Mexico is just a mighty calm, friendly place.

The other day I read the US State Department's advisory about Mexico. It could get you *really* scared! Basically, they say that you need to travel only on the toll road (the fancy interstate highway here) during the daytime, and with your windows rolled up. It's SCARY! And it contrasts so starkly with our experience. I'm sure that every incident they cite is true, but I think there's a lack of perspective. They're reporting "risk" in absolute terms - suggesting that you shouldn't take any risk. What they really should be doing is saying something like: "When you're in the subway in Mexico City you should take the same measures you would take in any metropolitan subway." Or "When you're driving on the highway and you see something that doesn't look right, you should be careful, like you would anywhere in the world." They just say "don't do this and don't do that" because it's so risky, without putting it in the context of our U.S. risk level. People get shot in our home city of Denver, and that's really bad. But we don't think about it at home. I believe that fewer people are murdered annually in a Mexican city the size of Denver,
but the State Department doesn't make that kind of comparison. They just make you fear and act as if you can manage risk by avoiding risky situations, rather than calculating and dealing with risk.

We're going to miss Mexico a lot. And we may have to learn a lot more about managing our security in Guatemala and Honduras. We'll see. But we have to tell you it sure feels like a friendly, safe place to us.