Monday, March 15, 2010

Violence in Mexico

You may have read in the news about the American Consulate employee and her husband in Juarez, Mexico who were brutally killed today. We, like you, were saddened by this event and feel great sympathy for those killed and their loved ones. As usual when such events occur, we heard from several loved ones back home telling us the news and urging us to be safe in our travels. We want folks to know how much we appreciate their information, concern and love for us. We want to know what’s going on, we want to be cautious, and we take concerns about safety seriously.

That said, we also have another perspective on the news. Far and away, the vast majority of folks killed in Mexico in such incidents are involved, one way or another, in the “drug trade” – either as cartel members, buyers, sellers or law enforcement personnel. Almost all of such violence occurs in well-known border towns, or other identified areas of mainland Mexico where the cartels dominate the local scene. Information about these “hot spots” is widely available, and we scrupulously avoid such places. Those killed today unfortunately worked in a very dangerous city, and for the U.S. government, which is very active in encouraging and supporting the Mexican government in going after the drug cartels. As a result, those killed today were a carefully chosen target for the cartels which are doing everything they can to preserve their industry.

Because some of the border cities are a center of this type of drug violence, when we cross the border, we pick “easy” crossings, avoiding those that are known for problems. We want to reduce our risk of being “in the wrong place at the wrong time”, so we make sure we have plenty of fuel, water and food, cross early in the morning, and don’t stop until we’re well south of the border.

Additionally, we would note comparisons with violence in the U.S. Since we came to Mexico in January, we’ve read several news stories online about mass killings in the U.S., for example, the professor at the University of Alabama who killed several of her colleagues. We doubt this story made anyone afraid of traveling in the U.S., or even Alabama. There have been other such stories since we traveled south in January.

Even our hometown, Seattle, is a place where we feel very safe. Nonetheless, there are places in Seattle we do not walk the sidewalks at 1am. Last year a mentally ill man entered the downtown Jewish Center and killed several people for no apparent reason. But we don’t think people avoid traveling to Seattle because of fear of violence.

The violence of the drug cartels in Mexico tends to be particularly gruesome, and as a result, is easily sensationalized by the U.S. news media which has become increasingly ”breathless” in its’ approach to news in order to increase its’ audience.

We bring this perspective to all of our travels and attempt to make informed decisions about where to go, when to be there, and what steps to take to heighten or ensure our personal safety. With that in mind, we want you to know that we feel very safe in Mexico and plan to continue our travels in this country in the future. We really appreciate the folks who send us articles or news, statements of love and their concern for our safety as it contributes to “keeping us sharp”.

We will not let fear, fanned by sensational news coverage, dominate our approach to life or travels, and we think knowledge and preparation is the best way to attack fear. Happy and safe travels to all our family and friends, and thank you for your love and concern for us!

No comments: