The US State Department recently issued a travel warning for Mexico that made it sound like it is very dangerous to be here. The US Consul General pointed out that the warning was only intended for certain areas, but the damage is already done. Even before the warning, the number of tourists had plummeted and the restaurants and other businesses are in serious trouble because there just aren't enough visitors to sustain them all. Many houses are on the market but there aren't many buyers right now. Rentals are sitting empty.
Our local weekly newspaper reports that 2011 Canadian tourism to Mexico was up seven percent over 2010. I don't know where they are, but it's not here. A few months ago a Canadian woman was severely beaten in Mazatlan. Then it was Canada issuing warnings. I think the two countries just take turns. But who is warning the people north of the border of all the murder and drug problems up there?
The media seems to take some joy in keeping track of the number of people who have died in President Calderon's war on drugs. Almost all of the deaths have been caused by the drug cartels battling each other for power, and almost all of the dead had been working for one cartel or another. These are not fine upstanding citizens. And that goes for the Americans that have been killed, too; most were involved in the drug trade.
Many things have changed since I retired in Mexico almost eight years ago. In addition to the cartel wars, the "war on migrants", and the problems with the US economy over the past few years have sent many people, both illegal aliens and US citizens of Mexican descent, fleeing south across the border looking for work. Many come to areas with lots of gringos because of the demand for bilingual employees. It seems like it's getting easier all the time for those who don't speak Spanish, but it also means that the Spanish-speakers who held the jobs before are now out of luck. Desperate, many have turned to crime when they couldn't find other work.
Yes, things have changed, but I have no intention of fleeing north. I'm more careful about answering my door. I only drive on the heavily traveled toll roads if I'm traveling long distances. I installed an automatic gate opener so I don't have to get out of my car to open it. I don't go out alone after dark, and I'm more careful about keeping my doors locked. Am I afraid? No, just cautious. Not much different than I would be up north.
The Mexican government says there are 738,103 US citizens and almost 8,000 Canadians living permanently in Mexico. That doesn't count the snowbirds who just come down for the winter. About 50,000 of us live in the state of Jalisco. I've heard that this area is the largest community of US citizens outside of the United States. If we thought we were in danger, we wouldn't be here.