Editorial / Tranquilo - Safety in Yucatan

Tranquilo - Safety in Yucatan

Tranquilo - Safety in Yucatan

25 November 2006 People & Interviews 54

We're willing to bet that if you've read anything about Mexico in the mainstream media lately, you've read something about either the violence in Oaxaca or murders in Ciudad Juarez or the contested presidential election that left the losing candidate declaring fraud and not recognizing the decision of the election commission. The papers are always happy to print bad news about Mexico.

And if you're like most norteamericanos, these news stories have probably left you feeling uncomfortable about traveling to Mexico and especially about living here. Reading the U.S. State Department's Travel Tips might give you pause for thought, as they warn against crime "in Mexico" and encourage you to register with the embassy whenever you travel to Mexico so they can contact you in an emergency.

But we invite you to imagine that you are a foreigner contemplating a trip to the United States, knowing as much about it as you do about Mexico. You might read headlines about snipers randomly shooting people near the nation's capital, or men locking themselves in classrooms to rape and kill schoolgirls, or drive-by murders between gang members, or mothers drowning their babies. You might read about brutal police tactics using rubber bullets, tear gas and Tasers against peaceful demonstrators. You might read about drug enforcement officers mistakenly breaking into the wrong homes and killing the inhabitants. You would read how business executives become politicians who make laws legalizing corruption and then retire to become lobbyists (or vice-versa). You might also read how a majority of people voted for a presidential candidate who subsequently lost due to questionable election rules and court decisions.

As a U.S. citizen, you might be offended to learn that the country of apple pie and baseball does not seem so wonderful when a foreigner reads about it in the papers. You might want to say, "wait a minute, that's not my country!" As a U.S. citizen you know these incidents - while unfortunate and true - do not affect everyday life for the majority of people. You know that there may be problems, but there is so much more to experience in the U.S. than these stories tell.

We have lived in Mexico for several years, and we know that everyday life here is not affected by the headlines. There is so much more to life in Mexico than the stories told in the newspapers.

We have lived in the heart of a Mexican city, in the Centro Historico, just five blocks from the zocalo, in Merida. This city's population is approaching one million. We live on a busy block that has private homes as well as businesses ranging from dental equipment suppliers to doctor's offices to a printing press. On the corner is a local cantina, La Bar Negrita. On another corner is a tendejon, El Motor Electrico. There is also a bed & breakfast called Hotel Marionetas and a public parking lot.

We have a simple lock on our front door. We leave our interior doors to the patio and back yard open, unless it rains. We park our SUV on the street. We walk to and from our office, the zocalo, Paseo de Montejo, and any other number of places at all times of night and day. When our 16-year old daughter lived here, she would walk to and from a friend's house at night by herself. Now and then, we absent-mindedly forget our purse or wallet in the car. Other times, we have left something valuable in the car, like a camera, while we do our errands around town. We aren't stupid about it... we just aren't paranoid.

We have never been accosted. We have never been robbed. The worst thing that's happened to us is someone "collected" our California license plates. But nobody bothers to take our new Yucatan license plates.

We have been stopped by policemen on occasion for minor traffic "misunderstandings". Most of these were legitimate, while a couple seemed inappropriate, but we were always treated with the utmost respect by those policemen and have never been in a situation here in Yucatan where anyone expected us to pay la mordita (a bribe).

Sure, you can find stories of people who have been robbed. There have been several murders in Merida since we moved here, but these are surprisingly few given Merida's size. There was some violence around one of the local newspaper offices a few months ago involving a home-made bomb. There are often political rallies and demonstrations, almost always peaceful. The most violence we've seen was when the city wanted to change the local bus routes and the workers from the surrounding pueblos arrived at the zocalo armed with stones to protest. A tear gas canister was fired at the crowd, but by midnight the mayor had restored the original routes and the protesters went home. It's not always tidy in Mexico - this isn't Switzerland - but the problems in Mexico that we confront are nothing compared to what U.S. citizens living in big cities accept and live with every day.

Yucatan has something special going on. There's a peaceful co-existence here between people from many different cultures and walks of life that you seldom find in other parts of the world. Yucatecos live and let live. Little has changed and much has changed, producing a culture of tolerance, patience and amable (kindness). Why has Mexico in general and Yucatan in particular developed in this way? Maybe it has to do with the relative isolation this part of the world has endured for many years, but is enjoying now. Maybe it has to do with learning the lessons of their violent history or maybe it's the survival of their indigenous traditions or the ingredients in the food or the dawn of a new Mayan age in the year 2012. Maybe it's because it's really hot here for half the year and nobody can get up the energy to cause trouble. Quien sabe?

Whatever it is, if you are inclined to explore Yucatan, please read those news reports about Mexico with un grano de sal. Remember that Mexico is a very large country and places like Oaxaca and Yucatan are farthar apart than France and England, not just geographically, but culturally as well. Don't take the word of a few journalists wearing gringo-tinted glasses whose job is to write stories that sell papers. Come down to the Yucatan and find out for yourself what life here is really like.

Yucatan and Merida remain as they have been: muy tranquilo.

Want to know more about safety in Mexico? Read this fabulous article by a former television producer who now makes his home in Queretaro.


  • Health Star Medical Tourism » FAQ 9 years ago

    [...] but one of the safest cities in the world. We encourage you to do some research for yourself at YucatanLiving.com or at TheTruthAboutMexico.com, both websites written in English by expatriates living and traveling [...]

  • Roxanna 10 years ago

    Thank you so much for your wonderful information. I have been thinking of moving to Merida and had lots of concerns. I now feel very comfortable in continuing my journey and explorations to this wonderful country. I applaud you and the info you have given. I will be making my plans soon to look for a new home. Can't wait!!

  • Luis R 10 years ago

    Ok so I went to L.A. for a Week and is still Nice as I Love My City but at The same time is still Horrible LOL. I didnt Feel safe one bit and the Muggin Inmigration Custums were the first encounter with Arroganse! on my way back to Merida, In The Cancun International Airport , a Mexican Costums officer told me "Welcome Back Home"
    Once i Arrived to Merida by BUS My Headache and Alergies that i got in L.A. due to Very UNCLEAN Air were Gone! Man I Love this City! Viva Mexico!

  • Lilia 11 years ago

    THANK YOU for this article, I loved it and the well thought out comments as well. BTW, all my life I've commented that it is just too hot in Merida for anyone to make the effort to stir up trouble... funny to see I'm not the only one who thinks this a valid theory.

  • Luis R 11 years ago

    I Just moved to Merida from L.A. California. WOW !
    Im Loving the fact that i can walk in the streets worry FREE! No Gangs no Muggings
    on the streets and no LAPD! I Love it !!!! People here is friendly you can feel the peace and kindness of the people! (Im From Guatemala BTW)

  • Working Gringos 11 years ago

    Good link, thank you!

    Readers might also like to check out http://www.thetruthaboutmexico.com

  • Karin 11 years ago

    Here is a link to a much more accurate description of our area's safety, regarding the "drug wars" in Mexico.


    with the excerpt specific to our areas:

    "... blue states listed as zones with the fewest murders...

    Two other blue states are Yucatan (0) and Quintana Roo (4), home to Cancun. There are numerous yellow states classified merely as violent zones."

  • Working Gringos 11 years ago

    Thanks for that link. We have reviewed it briefly (just not enough hours in the day!!) and we were struck by these facts from the report...

    • Despite declining demand, North America remains the world’s largest cocaine consumer, with an estimated 7 million users consuming perhaps half of the world’s supply.
    • The heroin market is largely contained within the hemisphere, with Colombia and Mexico supplying most of the demand of the 1.3 million users in North America.
    • Cannabis demand is universal and mostly supplied by domestic sources, but Paraguay,
    Colombia, Jamaica, and Canada are significant exporters to other countries in the region.
    • Production of methamphetamine to supply domestic demand was initially most acute in the United States. Precursor controls pushed large-scale production southward, into Mexico, and increasing enforcement there may push it further southward still. All
    countries of the region have the potential to be used for precursor diversion or
    manufacture. Canada has recently emerged as a global source of ecstasy-group drugs.

    We think that the consumption of drugs is a universal truth... since the beginning of time, humans have ingested substances to change their consciousness in one form or another. It is the criminalization of these drugs that creates the problems with power, violence and money. Decriminalization and regulation (a la alcohol, a legal and regulated drug) take the violence and excessive amounts of money out of the equation, leaving only the issue of dealing with addiction, which is an issue to deal with for a small section of the population whether it is legal or not.

    Those excessive amounts of money find their way into the coffers of some of the largest and most powerful factions governing our planet. We saw a glimpse of that with the Iran Contra scandal when people from our own government were funding an illegal war with gains from illegal drug trade. Did that stop it? Far from it. It continues to this day, with the "little people" the ones who die, are beheaded and who are generally caught in the crossfire.

    It behooves those of us who live in Mexico to speak up and say that this isn't a Mexican problem... it's a much bigger problem than that. It doesn't make Mexico wildly unsafe... there is unsafety as well in the streets of Chicago and Houston, in the suburbs of Los Angeles and anywhere that illegal drugs are traded.

    We think we must work together to solve this problem... not make Mexico the demon and punish the whole country for something all the countries of the Americas and the world play a hand in perpetuating.

  • Karin D 11 years ago

    I'm afraid that the UN's most current report is less than ideal. See the document at this link:


    The Impact comments, beginning on page 31, states:
    "Taken as a whole, Latin America and the Caribbean are arguably the most violent region of the
    world, according to the murder figures collected by the World Health Organisation, the United
    Nations Surveys of Crime and Criminal Justice Systems (CTS), and Interpol. By any reckoning,
    Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Jamaica are among the most dangerous
    countries today. Beneath them are a second tier of countries with murder rates nearly as severe,
    including Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, and
    even small islands such as St Lucia. There appears to be a strong relationship between the high
    rates of violence and the drug trade."

    The better news is that this report never mentions Quintana Roo or the Yucatan, as far as I could find.

    I own property in the Yucatan and hope to rent it out soon, but we cannot ignore the facts. I'm not sure what each of us can do, other than not participate in activity that encourages the problem and take a common sense approach to general safety.

    You should review the report for yourselves.

  • Brad and Family 11 years ago

    Hello - we are traveling as a family with two small kids (6 and 7) to the Yucatan, and will be visting Tulum, Chichen Iza, Valoloadid, and Celestun. My wife has become worried because, as you mention, our Media is giving these harsh warnings. Do we need to be worried, or super careful? What sort of precautions should we take, if any?

    Thanks much for your help

  • Yucatan Living - Lots of Good Yucatan News 11 years ago

    [...] all safe and happy in Yucatan, no matter what your media fabricates to the contrary. We stand by our article about the Media’s penchant for scaring their readers about Mexico that we wrote almost three years ago.We have expressed our frustration with the current escalation [...]

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