By Bob Nesoff
Have tourists in Mexico become an ATM machine for Cartels and kidnappers targeting Americans?
Mexico and the United States have had a love hate relationship since the 1800s and the flap over Texas. It is a fantastic destination with much to offer in the way of history, culture and fun.
It could also be a very dangerous destinations for unwary tourists. Especially in some of the smaller villages the Pancho Villa Mentality is still in play. Americans should be warned to never drive, alone or with others, after dark. Doing so is simply unintelligent and dangerous.
Those from South of The Border, and we’re not talking about road-side destination in South Carolina, yards from North Carolina. For years Burma Shave-like signs quoting a fictional Mexican character urge passersby to stop in. And they do. By the thousands. Fireworks, Mexican souvenirs, sex toys, you name it. They are all available at this stop.
But this isn’t Mexico any more than eating in a Chinese restaurant constitutes as a visit to Beijing.
The reality is that too many Americans and other tourists are taken hostage and held for ransom. Some Mexicans are under the impression that anyone who can afford a trip to the country is wealthy. Add to that college kids on spring break head for border towns to drink at permissible taverns and look to buy drugs. The beer is OK, but the drug hunt has often led to kidnapping or death.
The real Mexico is a terrific stop for vacationers. You can buy beautiful silver crafts, leather goods such as well-made cowboy boots and purses. And the exchange rate of dollar to peso is a true boon to American visitors.
The resorts in Cancun, Riviera Maya, Ixtapan de la Sal in the mountains appreciate the American visitors: not only for the money they spend, but for the simple fact that they chose Mexico. Not only the resort areas are wonderful, but Mexico City itself should be on the visitors list. There is Chapultepec Castle with its historic display; for those with a strong stomach a visit to the regular bull fights. A short distance out of the city are the amazing pyramids created by distant Not only the resort areas are wonderful, but Mexico City itself should be on the visitors list. There is Chapultepec Castle with its historic display; for those with a strong stomach a visit to the regular bull fights. A short distance out of the city are the amazing pyramids created by distant ancestors. Climb them for an unparalleled view and then visit the adjacent museum to drink in the artifacts found from the Aztec.
Transportation in the city is easy by bus or even the trolley line running down one of the city’s main avenues, Avenida Insurgentes. (Full disclosure: the writer lived in Mexico City on Insurgentes and went to the Escuela Americana-the American School as an adolescent and has been back to the country many times. The writer’s youngest brother holds Mexican citizenship as he was born in Mexico City.)
But recent incidents in the country, especially in the border regions, has put fear into those contemplating a visit. Headlines were made when four Mexicans who actually lived in Texas, were kidnapped by members of a drug cartel and two were murdered. Astonishingly, the alleged culprits were found bound and face down by the Rurales Mexican police.
They had been dumped there by one of the drug cartels seeking to allay pressure from the local authorities and American representatives. A note on the windshield of a truck claimed they were the culprits and he cartel was turning them over to authorities to play CYA. Too often police in rural and border areas see the cartels as a valuable source of extra income and they often tend to look the other way. But, in fairness, they know the consequences to themselves and their families if they don’t.
Then, barely a week later, three Mexican women living in Texas crossed the border to go to a flea market and sell some goods. At the time of this writing they have not been released. Also, a Mexican-American woman who was staying at a home she owned in Mexico, has disappeared. No word yet on her as of yet.
These incidents took place in the area of the border town of Matamoras. Another city visitors should exercise caution is Tijuana (not Tia hwana) especially students and young people looking to score drugs. Some students have been ripped off and some killed while others have not been heard from since.
Several American medical students, renting a home in Guadalajara were shocked when Mexican police suddenly appeared at their door, entered and trashes the place looking for drugs. None were found. Another American told the story of being driven to a friends when the car was pulled over by police who proceeded to empty the trunk and pull the seats apart. Again, nothing found. But all this tends to cement the danger faced in the country from both cartels and police.
Drug cartels, numerous in Mexico, prefer those areas making it easier to smuggle drugs into the United States. There are also the random and targeted kidnappings, especially of Americans who, many Mexicans automatically perceive as being brash and will bring a healthy ransom. And that is often true.
There is also a bit of “Kid Brother” attitude toward the bigger, richer and more powerful country to the north. While Mexicans consider themselves to be Mexican (really?) they chafe at Americans calling themselves Americans. Mexicans refer to those north of the border as Norte Americanos. The pejoratives, “Gringo” is often used liberally to describe Norte Americanos. Many Americans compare that to the “N Word.”
OK, this may all seem horrible, but the truth of the matter is that by far, the greater majority of Mexicans are honest and hard-working people, family men and women.
Don’t hesitate to vacation in Mexico. Just be aware of your surroundings and use caution…as you would in many Norte Americano cities.