By Larry Crowson
Living next to the most powerful and rich nation in the world is tough. Many Mexicans have traveled North in search of a better life and are willing to work illegally at almost any job to put food on the table and to reach for the American dream. Other Mexicans have opted for illegal activities in Mexico, including participating in drug-related crime. It is hard to pass up an illegal act when you desperately need money to feed a family or deal with a sick relative. To paraphrase a drug gang’s recruitment billboard, “Are you tired of eating rice and beans? Come join us.”
It is difficult to know whom to believe when it comes to crime and statistics. Many Mexican newspapers are prone to exaggeration, sensationalism and often bear a stronger resemblance to the National Enquirer than the New York Times. According to the latest FBI crime stats, the US is far more dangerous than Mexico!
Here’s our advice, based on our years of experience:
- Travel if you feel comfortable. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are 100% safe. While it is VERY likely that you will NOT experience anything out of the ordinary, you can never be too cautious.
- If you are flying, when you arrive at your destination, take an authorized taxi from the airport.
- Don’t have anything to do with drugs. Stay away from places that look risky. Stick to frequent tourist places that are in open, well-lit areas of the destination. Ask the desk clerk at your hotel if you are in doubt.
- Take buses that travel in daylight hours.
- Drive out of border areas as quickly as possible. Make your first overnight stop as far away from the border as you can.
- Drive on the main highways well into daylight hours. While we used to start at 6 AM, now we start our day at 8 AM. We quit earlier too, and of course, we don’t drive at night.
- If possible, drive with another vehicle if you’re nervous. This will give you confidence, if nothing else. If there is a breakdown, you will have immediate support.
- Get a Mexican cell phone. Buy a “pay as you go” phone to assist you if there is an emergency. Put the emergency number 078 for the Green Angels (Angeles Verdes) for help with vehicle breakdowns, or 066 for general emergencies on your speed dial. The cheap cellular phones cost about $30 USD.
- Don’t display your wealth. A big stuffed wallet doesn’t impress anyone, but it does make you a target. Have one wallet with 500 pesos or so in smaller bills. Tuck away any other cash that you carry with you. Don’t bring your precious jewelry or any other items with you on your trip that you cannot afford to lose.
- If you are in an RV, don’t boon-dock alone. Not at a Wal-Mart. Not at a Pemex. Not at a beach. Stay only at official campgrounds or in a group.
- Have a plan in case you run into an “unauthorized roadblock.”
Plan for an Unauthorized Roadblock (highly unlikely)
We always try to have a plan for the worst-case scenario. We figure our lives are worth more than our processions, so we have adapted the following plan for ourselves in case of an assault via an unauthorized roadblock:
- Don’t try to outrun or break though the barrier.
- Keep your hands on the wheel or on the dash in a visible manner.
- Don’t stare or otherwise appear that you are trying to identify the culprits.
- Wait for instructions to get out of the vehicle.
- Hand over anything they ask for.
We would suggest that this plan would be good for any country: Mexico, Canada, the USA or Europe. We do not know or have not heard or read of anyone who has been hurt if they pose no resistance.