I have been deeply concerned about the news of violence in Mexico. Carol and I love Mexico and have many friends in this complex, beautiful country. We have traveled to or through most of the Mexican states, and have just returned from Rivers of Mercy Children’s Home in Acolman, a town on the outskirts of Mexico City.
Before leaving I received calls from concerned friends encouraging me to put the trip off until the violence has stopped. People I trust warned me not to travel through the border towns and northern states of Mexico. I always fly… so I miss these states.
The morning we boarded the plane I grabbed USA TODAY because of a front page headline about violence in Mexico. The average North American reading this lengthy article would think Mexico was falling into violent anarchy. The article was so sensational that I wondered what I would find different in Mexico City from when I was there five months ago. In a word this is what I found to be different: Nothing…
I asked every Mexican I met to tell me how the violence in Mexico has changed their lives. All of them looked at me like I was from another planet. When I explained about the news reports in the US they all expressed knowledge of this violence, but said it was taking place on the border and had no effect on their lives in central and southern Mexico. When I said there were rumors of possible civil war or the fall of Mexican government they all laughed.
Most North Americans know little about the geography of Mexico. When they read city names in articles they generally don’t know where these cities are located in relation to other cities in Mexico. Here’s a short primer on comparative distances in Mexico. The article on violence in Mexico and a US State Department Tourism Alert mentioned the following cities as crime hot spots:
Tijuana – located south of San Diego, California and 1,429 miles northwest of Mexico City. Tijuana is as far from Mexico City as the Canadian border is from Houston.
Juarez – located south of El Paso, Texas and 965 miles north of Mexico City. Juarez is as far from Mexico City as Washington D.C. is from Miami. I had opportunity to visit with a pastor from this city of almost 2 million people. He said the crime is mostly centered in areas Christians don’t visit, but, sadly, many US tourists visit these areas and do become victims of crime. (bars, prostitution, & drug related areas)
Matamoros – Located south of Brownsville, Texas (the southernmost US city on the Mexican border) and 456 miles from Mexico City. Matamoros is just about as far from Mexico City as Nashville, Tennessee is from New Orleans. (All distances from Google Maps Driving Directions)
Anytime a citizen of the US visits some of the outrageously overpopulated cities of the world they should always know where they are, keep a low profile, and avoid all dangerous areas and events. When we take guests to Mexico City, possibly the 2nd most populated city in the world, we deliberately avoid certain areas and know exactly where we are at all times. Crime is a horrible reality in every major city in the world… even the US. If you ever visit New York, Miami, Houston, or LA you better know where you are at all times…
I personally think much of the reporting, while factually accurate, is deliberately sensationalized with political motives. It is my hunch that this bad news will be used to modify existing laws and immigration policies concerning Mexican citizens living in the US.
I have been leading groups to Mexico for decades and, thanks to God, have never had an incident. We are still planning a group visit to Mexico City and the Rivers Of Mercy Children’s Home this July. Safety is our priority… always. But, with that being said, the cities just south of the US/Mexican border should only be visited by people who have extensive experience in these areas and a good reason to be there. Pray…