A Report from A Dangerous Place

You would think that sitting here under a palapa (palm-frond roof) deep down in Mexico a hundred yards from the beach, with some American surfer-dudes around and with the frigatebirds soaring languidly overhead, one would experience true peace and tranquility.
And in fact I did enjoy it until I happened upon a CBS News article that said “In the past few years, Mexico has become one of the most dangerous places on earth.” I didn’t know that.
I thought the most dangerous part of my day was suffering hypothermia from the cold showers in this particular campground (It’s a good thing that the air temperature is about 80.).

On this continent anyhow, US (and Mexican) highways are the most dangerous places. (Well, a lot of people die in bed, but I mean public places.) Over 41,000 people died on US highways last year. But I guess I’m in danger, according to CBS. So I read further, comparing the CBS article to known facts about the US.

    CBS: “Drug gangs have killed more than 5,000 people this year – more than the entire American death toll in Iraq.”
    Fact: 16,000 people are murdered annually in the USA.
    CBS: “About 40 San Diego residents were kidnapped in Mexico this year – double the number three years ago. Many more go unreported.”
    Fact: Statistics are uncertain, but there were about 100,000 kidnaps in the USA last year.

Mexico’s looking better, and of course I’m not going to be walking around Juarez or Tijuana any time soon.
What does the future look like in the drug war? The Tijuana police chief is quoted by CBS: “If the cartels only understand the language of violence, then we are going to have to speak in their language … and annihilate them.”
And a US FBI agent adds: “”The violence is absolutely spilling across into the United States.”
Sounds bad, but who needs depressing news? I’ll listen to George Bush, he’s always so upbeat about the worst disasters.

    “There will be more work done after I’m out of here,” President Bush said last week after a meeting on drug use reduction, “but we have laid the foundation for a successful effort against drug use, drug supply and helping those who have been addicted.”

See? They’ve “laid the foundation.” It is nice to know they’ve finally got going since the “War on Drugs” started in 1971.
Now if all that violence DOES spill over into the US I might just extend my stay in this “dangerous place,” order me another Cerveza Tecate and take up surfing.

Don Bacon is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, war is a racket.

8 thoughts on “A Report from A Dangerous Place”

  1. The most dangerous thing I encountered in Mexico last year was that people in Veracruz dance constantly from sundown (6pm.) until the wee hours–could definitely put a strain on your heart!
    Oh, and a guy insisted on showing me the belfry of an old cathedral. No elevator. The view was great!

  2. The only excitement here was that we had a bunch of Mexican young men camp near us last night. They turned their radio up loud and sang along with a lot of the music, both in Spanish and English. They certainly knew the words, they had a lot of enthusiasm and they quit at a decent hour. One of the group was the comic.
    Like the dancing you encountered, it seemed like a celebration of life with good company and good music. There may have been other contributions to it, of course.

  3. Don
    Don’t forget to duck.
    December 19, 2008 | 2148 GMT
    A travel alert from the Italian government is the latest in a series of warnings regarding the security situation in Mexico. Foreign visitors have so far managed to escape most of the drug violence, but the overall breakdown of law and order in Mexico could see other criminal groups emerge who are willing to target tourists.
    The governor of Mexico’s Quintana Roo state responded Dec. 18 to a travel alert issued by the Italian government warning its citizens of the security risks associated with visiting Mexico. Gov. Félix González Canto, whose state includes such tourist destinations as Cancun and Cozumel, expressed hope that the alert would not affect tourism, which is expected to be impacted in 2009 by the global recession.
    The alert from Rome makes Italy the latest addition to a long list of countries that have issued such warnings over the last two years as Mexico City has waged its war on the drug cartels. There is no denying the fact that Mexico’s deteriorating security situation has had a negative impact on the country’s tourism industry, but foreign tourists have so far remained outside the scope of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organizations.
    This is not to say that foreigners have been immune to the soaring violence. Foreign businessmen who live in Mexico or travel there frequently are routinely targeted for extortion or kidnapping in border cities like Tijuana. In addition, petty street crime remains an issue, and on occasion tourists have been caught in the crossfire of the drug war. But given the high level of violence in resort towns such as Acapulco and Cancun — which offer valuable port facilities for drug traffickers — it is remarkable that more foreigners have not been affected by the violence. (The Mexican navy actually has had some success in curtailing maritime drug trafficking, which is diminishing the strategic importance of coastal resort towns to the cartels.)

  4. Mention Italian and Mexico and I remember the wonderful squash blossom pizza we enjoyed in Mexico in September while we were attending Spanish school. In fact we enjoyed it three times (in two weeks), sitting on a balcony overlooking a crowded pedestrian street.
    That was in Oaxaca (wah HAK a), a marvelous Spanish colonial city in southern Mexico. We were there during Mexican Independence Day festivities which reach their crescendo the evening of September 15th, Declaration of Independence Day. In 1810 Father Miguel Hidalgo shouted what has since been labeled El Grito de Dolores, the shout of pain — “Viva Mexico! Death to the gachupines (Spanish)”! This ignited the Mexican revolution. And so on the 15th we were in the huge zocolo (city square) which was full of people, joining in the shouts of “Viva Mexico.”
    There were some troubles there in Oaxaca a couple of years ago but it’s quiet now. A particularly good time to visit is Christmas. One December 24th is the annual Noche de los Rabanos, radishes night, when tables are set up all around two sides of the zocolo to display the intricate carvings of large and small radishes in various sculptural displays, with their creators vying for prizes. When I initially saw them my first impression was that they must be wood carvings!
    Now that you mention it, I don’t recall ever seeing Italians in Mexico. In fact, speaking of visitors, we almost have this particular campground to ourselves. There are only three other gringos (norteamericanos) here! Spread the word — it’s dangerous! (and the tranquility is marvelous).

  5. My wife and I just spent a week in Puerto Vallarta during the festival of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. I’ve never been in a more friendly, peaceful place in my life. We can’t wait to go back next year.

  6. We’re on a Mexican high as a result of our birdwalk this morning. We saw two Citreoline Trogons, a Squirrel Cuckoo and a Vermilion Flycatcher, among other more common birds.

  7. Mexico: 9 Bodies Found, Cartel Hit Men Captured
    December 21, 2008 | 2005 GMT
    Mexican authorities on Dec. 21 found nine decapitated bodies in the Guerrero state capital of Chilpancingo, with some of the victims identified as soldiers, The Associated Press reported, citing State Public Safety Secretary Juan Salinas Altes. The bodies were found on a major boulevard several hundred yards from where Guerrero’s governor was set to take part in a religious procession the same day. Also Dec. 21, federal police said they had arrested three cartel hit men in Tijuana. Police found six assault rifles and about 3,500 rounds of ammunition in the house where the three were captured.

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