IS MEXICO SAFE FOR TOURISTS?

IS MEXICO SAFE FOR TOURISTS?
MEXICAN & INTERNATIONAL MURDER RATES COMPARED

In a press release dated July 23, 2014, Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI for its initials in Spanish) announced the homicide rates per 100,000 population for Mexico for 2013. For the nation as a whole, the rate was 19. For the State of Morelos 33. For the state of Yucatan 2. Quite wide variations state to state and city to city reflect mostly the impact of the drug wars in different locales. Press reports say the rates are down in 2014 in most of the country. The rate for Cuernavaca is 35. It should be noted that no effort has been made to distinguish between those killed in the city and those killed in neighboring pueblos and dumped in the city for publicity purposes. City police authorities claim (uncorroborated) that not one foreign tourist was killed in Cuernavaca in all of 2013.

Various sources on the internet list the US homicide rate at 4.7 in 2012. Cities with the highest homicide rates in the US are, in order, Flint MI (64.9), Detroit (54.6), New Orleans (53.5), St. Louis MO (35.5), Baltimore (35), Birmingham (33.7), Newark & Oakland (33.1). All others are below the Cuernavaca rate. Many US cities have much higher overall crime rates. For example, one of the highest is Orlando FL at 78. Yet tourists flock to places like Orlando and New Orleans while shunning Cuernavaca whose crime rates are much lower.

Comparing Mexico’s national homicide rate (19) with that of other countries, many are significantly higher: Venezuela (54), Bahamas (30), Belize (45), Jamaica (39), St. Kitts & Nevis (34). The countries feeding undocumented immigration to the US have worse rates: El Salvador (41), Guatemala (40), Honduras (90).

When comparing homicide rates, it is important to consider who the victims are. An article in the Houston Chronicle in October 2013 pointed out the dangers of several border cities but noted: “By comparison, most tourist zones have had few or no reported U.S. citizen murders, according to the U.S. Department of State’s reports of deaths of U.S. Citizens Abroad by Non-Natural Causes.” (Lisa Olsen, “Where U.S. Citizens are being killed in Mexico,” Houston Chronicle, Oct. 12, 2013). To repeat: City police authorities claim (uncorroborated) that not one foreign tourist was killed in Cuernavaca in all of 2013. Most homicides are the result of drug lords killing other drug lords. Tourists are not the targets nor the victims. US tourists are safer in many Mexican cities than in cities of comparable size in the US.

Colonial Places in Mexico

Colonial Places in Mexico

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17 thoughts on “IS MEXICO SAFE FOR TOURISTS?

  1. Good message, Jim. I continue to tell people that Mexico is just as safe as most places in the U.S. I never felt uncomfortable in our many months in Morelos State. And I miss the fresh tortillas!

    • Thanks Mike. You commented before I even finished adding the tags. Yes those who come visit us leave with happy memories and desire to return. It’s too bad so many are turned off by press reports that don’t distinguish between areas of the country. Hope to see you and Florence here again one day.

      • We tell everyone we meet, in every country we travel into that Mexico was one of the safest countries we experienced. Living in Cuernavaca was one of the highlights of our 3 years living on the road.

  2. Thanks for the update and statistics. You may be preaching to the choir – *I* know that Mexico is perfectly safe for tourists and I never have any hesitation about traveling there; I suspect many of your loyal readers feel the same. Mexico is definitely safer than many American cities, where, as you rightly point out, tourists are still flocking. You couldn’t get me to most of the other countries for whom you’ve given statistics at this point: Central America, Jamaica, Venezuela, Bahamas and Belize are places where I do NOT feel I would be safe (though I did go to Guatemala about 5 years ago and felt safe there at the time). I keep telling people I meet (like the folks on my recent trip to Greece) how much I love Mexico, and they look at me as though I had two heads. I don’t know how they can be convinced. But do keep up the good work of publishing these figures, and maybe we can make headway.

    Susan

    Sent from my iPad

    Susan Ansara 4471 Superstition Dr. Las Cruces, NM 88011 575-521-1121 (h) 575-649-8786 (cell) ansara@me.com

    >

  3. Thank you for the comparisons! I have a continuing dialog with family and friends in the U.S. that are concerned about safety. It seems to me the U.S. media, especially, misrepresents the statistics. That really hurts tourism and the people to work in the tourism and hospitality industry. I have always felt as safe here as in any large U.S. city.

  4. Gracias for the update. I have never felt unsafe in el D.F., Morelos or Guerrero. The scariest life threatening experience I ever had was in Minneapolis, MN, when walking alone one night in a driving snowstorm around 11 P:M. Three men saw me and changed their direction to pursue me. My guardian angel must have been watching since two city snow plow drivers just happened to have turned the corner on an otherwise deserted street in the heart of downtown. Seeing the situation, the driver rolled down the window saying, ¨Don´t worry, we are not going to let anything happend to you.¨

    Acapulco makes many international lists as being one of the ten most dangerous citites in the world. We don´t take unnecessary risks or stay out at night, but I have never seen or felt any trouble. Even during the height of Calderone´s drug war, the port seemed very tranquil and relaxed. Unfortunate perceptions of insecuirty discourage tourism, which is so unfair to the locals. According to the stats, the tourist may be much safer in Acapulco or Cuernavaca than in Orlando or New Orleans. Still, all levels of government in Mexico must redouble their efforts to deter and solve crimes before many international tourists care tp visit.

  5. Another reflection. The only incidents my wife and I ever experienced were in Europe. We had two attempted pickpockets in the subway from the airport to the Center of Barcelona. Later, my wife was robbed of her billfold from her purse. We have many years of experience in Latin America, specifically Mexico, but with little time in Europe we were targets two different times. What does that say?

    • Thanks George. I agree with you on Acapulco. It’s like Chicago…there are some neighborhoods you don’t go into especially late at night. But the Costera and Diamante are entirely safe with almost no violence against tourists. And yes, the petty theft in Europe is significantly higher. A friend was robbed in the Louvre in Paris and pick-pockets thrive in Barcelona and Madrid. You can’t relax a moment in crowded areas. In 30 years of bringing groups to Mexico, several thousand clients, two had their pockets picked due to carelessness and one woman lost her shopping bag and another had her purse slit in the Cuernavaca market. The State Dept. advise on safety in travel is excellent. It’s a shame their analysis of Morelos is pitiful based on one incident in a remote area of the state two years ago.

  6. Dr. JIM,

    I have been sending your link to a number of Americans since Ayotzinapa. They have appreciated your balanced accounts. It is refreshing to have a well informed voice of reason in Morelos such as yourself. People here liked your piece on pre hispanic and colonial times.
    Let me know when you are doing the post on Tepoztlan please. Don Karp and I would like to finally meet you. My invitation.

  7. Hi Jim,
    Unfortunately, living in the U.S. P, one always hears how dangerous Mexico and other countries are when our country has very sobering, negative statistics of violence. I never felt afraid anywhere I have gone in Mexico, but like anywhere in North America, one has to use common sense. Despite warnings of Mexico City, I traveled on the subways all hours of the night and felt safe.
    Considering only about 4% of Americans have passports compared to other nations! it would seem that people prefer to downplay the safety in their own country and amplify the problems elsewhere without any firsthand knowledge. I hear the same nonsense regarding Canadian healthcare, and how “bad” it is; long wait times, when the States ranks 37 th in the world on the World Health Organization’s list: http://www.who.org.

    Well, I will be one who will be coming to Mexico soon. Let the rest stay home!

  8. I appreciate your attitude John. It’s amazing that Orlando and New Orleans have murder rates much higher than most Mexican cities but tourists continue to flock there, and some parts of Mexico, like the Yucatan, have lower rates of violence than Canada. I will be updating security in Cuernavaca and Morelos within a few days on a separate post.

  9. Jim, I am a 6’5″ unusually tall Hispanic male. Will I stick out in Morelos or Cuernavaca enough to flag any unwanted attention?

  10. Well you will be taller than any Mexican local, but Mexicans mind their own business and you will find acceptance everywhere. Just don’t flash or do anything wild to call attention to yourself. Enjoy!

  11. Thanks for your info. My wife and two children lived in Cuernavaca in the 90’s for a couple of years until 1996. It was a wonderful experience for all of us. we bought a bit of land up in the western hills with the idea of building and retiring for part of the year there. However, with all the violence we can’t feel good about doing that. Your article has given me some hope, and although I know how the system works and even in the 90’s one needed to play by certain rules, I’m wondering if there is anything you may be able to offer us in the way of advice if you were in our situation. A piece of my heart will forever be in Mexico and especially Santa Maria de Ahuacatitlan.

  12. Hi Steve, the drug lords certainly smashed a lot of nice places and frightened millions. They aren’t in retreat yet. I am updating the picture of security in the country and will publish it in about a week. I hope you come back to visit often. Cuernavaca is safe for tourists if not for rival drug lords.

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