I came to Mexico in mid-December thinking I'd report on the drug violence taking place across the country. Since then, the only violence I've had to report was in Tucson, Ariz., two weeks ago when a lone gunman killed six and gravely wounded more than a dozen more of his fellow Arizonans.
Here in Sonora state, Mexico, there has been some drug-related news - Mexican marines apprehended two smugglers a few miles from where I'm staying, along with over a ton of marijuana. There have been a few deaths attributed to the wars between the drug cartels, but in this Mexican state the size of North Dakota, there has not been a violent crime involving a "Gringo" since 2006. The coastal region around Guaymas and San Carlos is home to thousands of American retirees, and feels a little like Scottsdale, Arizona with an ocean view.
The point here is that when you hear the news of violence in Mexico, or anywhere else for that matter, you must ask yourself what context you have for that location. For example, I lived in Washington, D.C. for ten years. If I hear of a one-hour delay on the freeway due to an accident, I think it must have been a good day. On the other hand, a one-hour delay getting through my current hometown of Beckley, W. Va., means there must have been a serious tragedy involving a farm tractor and a cattle truck. I come to these separate conclusions because I have lived in both places and understand the news in the context of what is ordinary for them.
But if you haven't been outside the U.S., and especially to Mexico lately, you have no context in which to place the recent violence. So in the absence of "ordinary," whatever news you read from Mexico seems to you like it must be ordinary, which is clearly wrong.
People continue to live their lives south of the border, working and going to school, going to church, falling in love. All the normal things that happen where you live. The people here think Tucson is a death trap after last week.
I've spent nearly two of the last three years outside the U.S., traveling around the world to more than 25 countries. And I can tell you, it's not as bad as it seems out here. So if you were thinking about renewing your passport for spring break, go ahead. As long as you don't plan on getting into the business of drug smuggling, you'll find Mexico to be a safe, friendly place full of fun and adventure.
And since most people will listen to fear over reason, you can be sure the beaches here won't be crowded for some time to come.