Mexico and Violence


Mexico is a complicated place when it comes to a lot of things, especially violence. When I passed through security at the airport in New York on my way here, the security agent looked at my boarding pass and told me to “be careful.” When I entered New York back in April from Mexico City, the customs man asked me why in the world would “I want to go to such a dangerous place.” I tried to explain to both that Mexico City is actually not more dangerous than, say, New York or Washington, DC and that most of the violence is concentrated on the border, but my words went over their heads. To most Americans, Mexico equals violence, period.

But though most of us who have lived here know the difference between the drug-related violence and normal petty crime, there are always surprises. This past week’s armed attempted robbery of a major grocery store took place in the expatriate and rich-friendly neighborhood of La Condesa, a place I love to walk and bike around. A drug-related drive-by shooting in La Condesa and the assassination of a drug case witness in a Starbucks in the nearby neighborhood of Del Valle also occurred in recent months. A friend, Nick Casey, wrote about the case of two Americans arrested in a border city. They were allegedly tortured in a situation where they claim the Mexican military planted suitcases of marijuana in their truck and then fraudulently arrested them for it.

I suppose that the point is that the line between drug-related violence and petty crime seems to be quickly blurring. Though rich enclaves will always be the target of criminals, places once thought to be relatively safe are no longer relatively safe. Being foreign in Mexico is not a bulletproof vest from being taken advantage of by a corrupt military. And, sadly, there is still no end in sight.

Photo via The Wall Street Journal

Comments 7

  1. Jesus Chairez July 21, 2010

    Well sorry to read the story, but all that you commented is true to my way of thinking as well. The violence in Mexico City, well Mexico, is something most English language — feel good, isn’t this cute, let’s have some fun, wanna do a tour — bloggers omit or just don’t seem to be aware of.

    Though I look Mexican, I am not, I am a Chicano from Dallas TEXAS and often when natives find out I am an American I get asked Why? Why did you come live here? Don’t you know, Can’t you see …

    And so we talk …

    Good post

    Jesús Chaírez
    Mexico City

  2. David Sasaki July 25, 2010

    There is perhaps a slight feeling that the safety bubble around Mexico City is starting to dissolve, but I think it’s important to remind readers that 99.9% of Mexico is everything but violence right now. Most of my friends are scared to come visit me because of what they see in the mainstream media (where, as you know, the only thing that freelance reporters in Mexico can sell are stories about either exotic travel or violence). So, when we write in our blogs and on independent platforms I think we have a responsibility to remind readers that Mexico is in fact a lot more than violence and exoticism.

    • okeowo July 26, 2010

      I hear you, but anyone who reads this blog would know that there is more to Mexico than violence and exoticism. I have written about its arts, literary scene, fashion, film and other cultural stories for major outlets. So I do think I have a right to talk about the encroaching feeling of violence that I do feel in DF.

    • Lucy August 27, 2010

      I’ve been living in Guadalajara for 2 1/2 years and I feel that things are quickly changing in Mexico. Unfortuanately, it’s no longer accurate to say that 99.9% of Mexico is not violent. Places that used to be safe no longer are. I don’t think my personal safety is threatened yet, but the drug war seems to be breeding a sense of lawlessness. Crime is WAY up in Guadalajara, including violent crime. Sometimes it’s hard not to get swept up in fear. But I’m lucky – I can leave if things get too bad. Most people don’t have that option.

      • oso August 27, 2010

        I think that we can all safely agree that crime is up in Mexico, but stories of hanging bodies and murdered migrants obviously attract a lot more attention than crime statistics. I go to Guadalajara every other weekend. You can find me reading on my iPad out in the center plaza. I’ve never experienced any crime there, nor have my friends, but fear is everywhere.

        If we’re going to talk about crime let’s at least point to organizations who are doing something about it and have policy proposals about what needs to change.

      • Lucy August 27, 2010

        Many of my friends have been victims of crime in the past year (including violent crime), so it’s hard not to be afraid. But I do lead a normal, pleasant life in GDL. It’s easy to get swept up in fear, so I’m glad you are presenting a different viewpoint, David.

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