Most of the recent press about Mexico has involved the killing of a group of dual citizen Mormons in a rural area between Sonora and Chihuahua (here’s a good explainer), and the cartel using .50 cal machine guns, rocket launchers and armored vehicles to free El Chapo’s son in Culiacán. But there’s another story that shows the depth of the problem that Mexico is facing.
Puerto Peñasco is a small port town at the northernmost tip of the Gulf of California/Sea of Cortez, known as Rocky Point to US tourists. It’s wired for tourism because of the joint efforts of the Arizona and Sonora governments: the 60 miles of road is a “safety corridor“, which means it is better patrolled and police bribery is discouraged and investigated. The whole area is part of the hassle free vehicle zone, which allows US citizens to bring in a vehicle without an import permit, and Rocky Point is the only destination in Mexico where the need for a tourist card or visa isn’t enforced. In short, it should be the safest spot in Mexico, and for US tourists, it is.
For Mexicans, it’s another story. Just before Halloween, a group called Searching Mothers of Sonora found a mass grave near Puerto Peñasco with 42 bodies. They were warned off by gunmen, but police were called in and further excavation continues to find bodies. The latest count is 58. DNA testing is going on to identify the bodies, and families are being encouraged to give samples if they think one of their relatives could be in the grave.
Everybody hates a tourist, but I love Mexico as a tourist. There’s a lot of ugliness in the towns, and trash on the roads, but there’s also this:
Mexicans, almost to a person, are some of the nicest and friendliest people you’ll meet. I’ve been a tourist there since I was a kid, and I was just in Puerto Peñasco a couple of weeks ago. I’d go again without much worry. Like any other country, you need to pick the places you want to visit. The areas of cartel activity are well known and publicized. Cartels generally do not mess with US citizens (the Mormons in Chihuahua were a special case – they were in vocal opposition to the cartels). Still, I’m sure fewer and fewer US citizens will be traveling there after hearing the news, and that’s a damn shame for a country that’s having a hard time in part due to the tidal wave of guns and drug money that we’re sending them.
Living in South Texas with Mexico next door, I grew up visiting the border cities like Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, and Reynosa. Wonderful people, food, and times. Mexico City is a true delight.
Nowadays we never go to those border cities but we still visit CDMX every year. We will always love to support our neighbors.
Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes
Mexico constantly gets a bad rap that it doesn’t deserve. Cartel violence generally seems to be rival on rival, and I’ve never worried about going there. I don’t drive when I go because I like the walks in places like Isla Mujeres and Puerto Morelos, where there’s a fun town square and decent food; plus, it is a genuinely short trip for me to fly to CUN out of CVG – 2.5 hours down, a short shuttle and maybe a ferry ride before I’m seaside. Everybody in my experience has been great!
As one who lives in Oaxaca, I would like to say that this place is one of the most popular in Mexico because of its culture, people, art, beaches. mountains and some of the best food in the world. There were hundreds of thousands of visitors for Day of the Dead and now the snowbirds have arrived, but nothing dampens the beauty and spirit of this place…. and it is very safe.
Interested in jackals’ comments on Mexico, because I would like to spend some time there before too long. Have been intrigued with Mexico City since watching “Roma.”
The frau and I have been visiting Mexico fairly frequently in recent years, and have found the locals unfailingly gracious, in a way a surprising contrast to the spleen and vindictiveness of our own MAGA set: it seems to me that Mexico has far more reason to resent El Norte than any of us have to resent Mexico.
I’m sitting in a beachfront cafe enjoying breakfast in Cabo San Lucas. Right now. We have never felt unsafe in over 25 years of vacations. Love the people, weather and the short travel time from LA.
Is it true that a lot of the guns the cartels have come from the US, due to our lax gun laws?
I would much sooner go to Mexico and feel much safer there, than I would Alabama or any other state infested with gun nuts and confederate-fascists.
I’ve been to Puerto Vallarta and Cozumel and enjoyed both. I know there were also some stories a year or a few years ago about shady characters in resorts and tourists getting drugged but I never had any issues. I also made a point of not leaving the resort at night – with the exception of a night dive (scuba) but the boat docked at the resort.
I’m sure I’ll go back sometime but I have new destinations on my travel list to check out first…
Interested in jackals’ comments on towns or small cities (or even where precisely in Mexico City) to live for a few months. What say you, jackals?
I’ve been to border towns several times but went to Mexico City, Aguascalientes, and Zacatecas last January. I look forward to going back and staying longer, probably based in Aguascalientes where my younger exchange son and his extended family live. Great place, great people! I really liked Mexico City too, and never felt unsafe anywhere.
@satby: Good to hear. I will consult with you. Not sure if trip will happen in 2020 or 2021.
Ella in New Mexico
This is an interesting take on what may have been a motive behind the attack on those Mormon families…water wars.
@Elizabelle: I’m planning on my next stay being between 1-3 months. Aguascalientes has a Toyota manufacturing plant there, so it’s got a lot of short term rentals but not a lot of the tourist / expatriate price inflation. If I don’t stay there I’m considering Guanajuato, which is close and a city both my exchange sons love to visit. It has a small expat community and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
@Elizabelle: same general timeframe as I’m considering. Late in the year 2020 or early 2021.
I’ve had probably the most relaxing vacations of my life in Puerto Vallarta. What a beautiful place, what delightful people. And I went to Mexico City once and found it fascinating.
A vote here for San Cristobal de las Casas and pretty much anywhere in the Chiapas highlands. Amazingly beautiful and within easy traveling distance to a number of indigenous Maya communities. And a trip into the lowlands can take you to Palenque which is an amazing site. Far more people are familiar with it than used to be but it’s still a bit off the beaten path for tourists, though that does seem to be changing.
My sister and her racist Breitbart-loving husband live in Puerto Penasco.
5 years ago my father and step-mother visited them for a few days. The morning of their last day, they woke up to a massive battle between the government and drug dealers, including use of helicopter gunships. Battle took place at the tower next door.
But my racist brother-in-law insists that Chicago is more violent.
@Eunicecycle: its true, former Congresswoman Giffords fought for the border checkpoints to go both ways, while weed and drugs and people were being noted coming North, going South were bundles of guns, ammo and cash from said sales in the North. Gabby was point person on bipartisan border cleanup, wanted us to not just stop the drugs coming in but also the stopping funds and mechanisms for violence going south. The attack on her actually silenced one of the reasonable bipartisan voices that was in place and has had a unfortunate byproduct in there not being a “champion” in trying to address “the border” ever since.
@Elizabelle: Mexico City is a vital, beautiful, vibrant city. So many different and wonderful neighborhoods to wander in and discover.
We found an Airbnb for $33 (US) a night in Polanco. That is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods. We felt safe everywhere we went, ate amazing foods, and saw some of the finest art in the world.
There are fantastic art museums in CDMX and that is one of the drivers for me when I look for a place to visit. Chapultepec Park is larger and more interesting than Central Park.
So much to see and experience, it would take years of living there to try to take it all in.
@piratedan: Thanks for the info. It’s terrible that we are basically exporting death. The cartels perhaps would not be as powerful without American guns. I suppose the guns would come from somewhere else, but at least we would not be complicit.
I have a friend who is originally from Portland and now lives in Todos Santos, in Baja. I have a friend who is from the state of Jalisco, which is about due west of Mexico City and he flies into Guadalajara to visit. He recommended to me to move there when I was trying to figure out what to do with my life, that I could easily live off my SS there.
I grew up going at least once a year. I live in San Diego and go across into tijuana, rosarito and ensenada about once a month..I am 41 years old and gone to Mexico dozens of time and I’ve never gotten mugged nor have I seen or experienced a shoot-out while in Mexico.. I did however experienced a couple shoot outs in the states
David ??Booooooo?? Koch
@[Individual 1] mistermix: These photos are beautiful. What kind of camera or smartphone did you use?
Thank you both for the suggestions.
Gin & Tonic
@Elizabelle: I am right now in transit back home from Mexico, where we attended a family event in San Miguel de Allende, a beautiful historic small town about 3 hours north of CDMX. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site, with a large gringo expat community. Well worth a visit. Unfortunately, various personal factors prevented us from having time in CDMX, which I regret. Next time.
@Gin & Tonic: Yes. Have heard of SM de Allende. On the list.
Would love to see some OTR photos of your trip. Safe travels home.