Safe Travel in Mexico
In April 2009, David Kaufman, International Travel Editor, American Express Magazine ,
asked me for my opinion about the negative publicity concerning drugs and violence Mex-
ico. Here is my reply.
“As an inveterate traveler for over a decade, I have found a great deal of pleasure and
adventure searching historic Mexico. I don't know much about beaches and beer but I've
retraced the footsteps of Miguel Hidalgo, Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa, Hernán Cortés,
Santa Ana, Benito Juarez, Francisco Madero and Venustiano Carranza and ventured into
many colonial cities and remote places.
I can't directly say how Mexico is dealing with the negative press on the drug trade, but in
my personal experience, I believe it's akin to being in Chicago in the 1920s. No one has
bothered me in tens of thousands of miles traveling across Mexico by bus and in my Grand
Marquis. I don't seek out drugs or look for "speakeasies.” I use common sense. When I've
been told not to go some place, I've mostly taken the advice. I travel with a belief that cau-
tion, secure parking and mild paranoia are apt to keep the traveler safe, not only in Mexico
but in all foreign and domestic adventures.
I've had misadventures, if one calls flat tires or having the Grand Marquis stuck off the road
in remote places or arriving after midnight when something went wrong. I've rarely made a
hotel reservation in advance, and always people have been helpful and kind. I haven't been
stupid or naive when I've had problems.
But I think the most important factor is not the place but the person. Teenagers on Spring
break can open doors to tragedy anywhere. Late nights in strange places and drugs or binge
drinking, well that's not safe conduct anywhere. Tourists sometimes let their hair down and
don't watch their wallet. That's not wise, ever, on any trip.
I've read about the narco-wars, and of course when police, politicians and military officers
have been assassinated, I've paid attention. Kidnappings I've also read about. Profession or
wealth marks these unfortunate people. But why would anyone kidnap a random tourist? Or
take a shot at a traveler?
I would not hang around the border towns. One glimpse is enough. But I wouldn't hesitate
to spend an evening in Zacatecas, join a callejonera winding through the ancient streets in
company with a donkey and dance with the entourage.