When I told my friends I was driving to Ensenada, Mexico, the majority of them were concerned. “Be careful.” said one. “Our cruise ship advisor told us to stay close to the boat, to be back before dark,” advised another. “Mexico is not safe, especially for a woman,” warned
It’s been a few years since I’ve driven to the border towns south of California, but I used to drive down often. I like shopping in Mexico, horse riding on the beach, having a massage and soak in the hot tubs at the Rosarita Beach Hotel, eating fresh, fish tacos, and my favorite, the Mexican shrimp, or miixo (with everything) cocktail. Yum.
This delicious concoction consists of fresh fish, shrimp, clams, octupus..whatever is in season I assume, chopped, put into a cup with fresh onion, cucumbers, cilantro, and covered with tomato juice. The consumer then adds salsa and or hot sauce to taste. Packets of saltines or crisp tortillas are open for the taking.
This past Monday, I left Venice Beach around 9AM, zipped down the 405 freeway to the 5, and before I knew it I was crossing the border. In spite of the lack of legible street signs and construction along the main drag, I managed to go directly to the Backpackers Hostel on Segundo St. in Ensenada.
The bright yellow hostel was only two blocks from the main street making it easy walking distance to the tourist area, but far enough away to avoid the noise and drunk Americans who come by ship to party. I know this because in days past, I was one of them.
The young man at the hostel spoke English. I preferred Spanish, but at one point, he laughed and asked me to speak English. ” Why, because my Spanish is so bad you can’t understand me?” Non committal, he laughed. By the time I’d put my bag into the locker, and changed my shoes, it was beginning to get dark. I asked if he thought it was safe for me to go out for a walk. “No problem in this area,” he assured me.
I felt perfectly safe walking around. Several blocks away at a corner street shack, I bought a cocktail, (approx 5 dollars for a large) and stood there eating along with six or seven men who were communicative and friendly. The cocktail was delicious. On the way home, I stopped into the Thrifty Ice Cream store and treated myself to a cappuccino carmel nugget cone, which I must say, was as close to an orgasm as I’ve had lately (from an outside source).
The following day I interviewed at two schools for teaching jobs, after which I drove around the residential areas looking for places to rent. Margaret. my Mini Cooper, dipped and groaned into and out of the ubiquitous pot holes, and cement troughs in the streets. There’s something to be said for a tight suspension system!
The following day I walked south to the beach. Because it was a windy, winter day, the only people on it were tourists out for a horse ride, and homeless men huddled beneath the public bath/gym complex who I’m pretty sure will be chased away come tourist season.
I left Thursday morning. Except for taking a wrong turn in Tijuana, which is as busy and crazy as it’s always been, the trip home was uneventful. It gave me time to think.
Why does the United States (media and government) malign Mexico? How does it serve us?
Yes, there are drug cartels in Mexico, because customers in the US buy drugs. We are their customers. We, too, have a crime problem.
Fact: our beloved city of New Orleans has four times more crime than all of Mexico, and five times that of Mexico City. Does the media run stories telling us to stay away from Marti Gras? Of course not.
Fact: The governor of Arizona recently admitted that a story about finding severed heads in the desert was untrue-but only after the story had run for months. I’ve driven through that desert many times without seeing anyone else, or being threatened in any way.
The truth is, in 2010, Orlando, FL , the home of Disney World had more than twice the murders than either Puerto Vallarta, or Cancun, two of Mexico’s popular tourist towns.
According to FBI stats, in 2010, 4.8 Americans per 100,000 were murdered in the US. Houston, TX had over three times the rate of murders of Americans in Mexico.
Only a few Mexican states are on the US travel warning, not the whole country. Most of Mexico is safe, beautiful, and friendly. In spite of the fact that we dammed and use 99% of the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers before they can flow into Mexiico, they welcome us.
Every country has crime. I have driven in 50 USA states, and when I lived in Puerta Vallarta a few years ago, I drove around Mexico freely and comfortably without a single, negative incident.
Remember that our media survives on sensationalism, not facts. When visiting anywhere, use some common sense, stay away from dicey areas, illegal substances, and enjoy yourself.