We’re back!

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Enjoying a smoke in the cool mountain air.

WHEN I MOVED south of the border in 2000, nobody asked me if I was afraid because there was no reason to be.

It was great for six years.

Then something happened during the administration of Felipe Calderón, a president I voted for. I believe his hard-nosed approach to the narco issue made things worse.

Violence between narcos and police and military escalated, and violence between narco gangs themselves spiked.

Your average citizen remained safe, however.

It didn’t take many stories — one, actually — of severed heads rolling across cantina floors plus hundreds of Americans* being slain to stop tourism dead in its tracks here.

When we first visited Zihuatanejo on the Pacific coast years ago, there were always cruise ships in the bay. That stopped. We haven’t seen even one in a long time.

My mountaintop town, a 16th century colonial beauty on the shore of a huge lake, lives off tourism. To a large degree, that screeched to a halt too. It was quite noticeable.

But, through those bad years, a tourist’s chances of encountering violence was virtually zero, no more so than what one faces during a winter weekend in Tampa.

Our bad reputation was fueled nonstop by an irresponsible, clueless, American news media with the assist of an absolutely hysterical U.S. State Department whose “travel warnings” were laughable to anyone who lived here.

When President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012 things calmed down considerably, but our ill fame lived on. But now, four years later, things appear to be changing.

In recent weeks, the quantity of tourists to our quaint mountain town has skyrocketed. For those of us who do not depend on tourism, it just means more traffic snarls. But to many others, it means a livelihood.

I am happy about this. Perhaps this is a light at the end of a long tunnel and that clear thinking and rationality are coming to the forefront. It’s a great place to live.

And an even better place to visit.

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Jam-packed central plaza on Sunday.

* The Americans are invariably named Garcia, Torres, Hernandez, never Smith or Jones. They are inhabitants of border zones who get involved in the narco trade, and often end up dead, but they are U.S. citizens. They are not tourists.

20 thoughts on “We’re back!”

    1. Christine: Of course, most tourists are Mexican, both wealthy and middle-class. But Mexican tourism here also tanked, to a considerable degree, during the bad times. We get Gringo, Canuck and European tourists here, but they prefer places like Cancún and Mérida, I think.

      And yes, our economy improves daily. I am optimistic about lots of things in Mexico. Not so much about the United States, however.

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      1. To me, the picture shows someone sitting on a tatty couch. Rich Mexicanos don’t do that. The man looks like an Egyptian, to me.

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        1. Carole: Tatty couch indeed. They’re atop one of the concrete benches that line the plaza. The benches are only good for short-term rests, and the skinnier your butt — like mine — the shorter period you can sit there.

          As for the guy’s appearance, be aware that many Mexicans also have big noses. And even more Mexicans, especially women, look Oriental.

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          1. The Spanish were known for their noses. A trait they passed on in the New World. Especially Argentina who are known as “narizones.”

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  1. Well, it is a three-day weekend so domestic tourism will take a jump. Michoacán especially suffered from the negative press. Some of it deserved, IMO. And some exaggerated. Have you noticed an increase in foreign tourists?

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    1. Clete: Yes, this is a big weekend, but the significant rise in tourism started well before this week. And yes, Michoacán is, according to the shrill U.S. State Department, one of the worst places in Mexico. Again, arrant nonsense. Most of the troubles that occurred in Michoacán took place in the outbacks of La Tierra Caliente, the warmer zones, a good distance from our mountaintop village. No matter to the State Department. People were told not to set foot anywhere — anywhere! — in the state. You almost have to burst out laughing at that nonsense.

      It’s like telling people not to cross the Illinois state line, not to visit Springfield or Bloomington or Peoria because ghetto dwellers are killing each other in depressed areas of Chicago and East St. Louis.

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  2. Years ago, we were visiting family in Guadalajara. They wanted to go to Disneyland, but were afraid they would end up on some black people’s barbecue spit. One Watts riot was one too many.

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  3. Even Big, Bad Mexico City doesn’t seem a whole lot more dangerous than your burg. Sure, in the outskirts it probably is. But anywhere a tourist would go seems to be incredibly safe. I’ve walked the streets of the central areas alone, way into the night and never had a problem.

    By the way, I once looked up the statistics. Mexico City’s murder rate is higher than San Francisco’s, but lower than Boston’s. Both of those are pretty safe cities by US standards. So Mexico City is pretty safe too, at least as regards murders.

    And the taxi kidnapping problem seems to have been solved too. No one is talking about it any more.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    DF, México
    Where the scariest thing is trying to squeeze onto the subway at rush hour.

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    1. Kim: Yep, I was thinking of the taxi problem there just a few hours ago. It too peaked about the same time all the other bad publicity was making the rounds, about eight or 10 years ago. And you’re right. It has vanished from the public mind. When I’m in Mexico City, I hail street taxis without a single qualm, but I did it even during the “bad times,” and never had a problem. They still tend to drive like lunatics, however, another sort of peril altogether.

      You know, I imagine, that the Federal District was phased out last week and now it’s just Mexico City, La Ciudad de México. I had the impression that, in spite of the name, it was to be a new state, but apparently not. It’s something unique. Interesting. I don’t know if the change is good, bad or somewhere in the middle.

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      1. Hola Felipe! Yes, I know about DF’s new status. Not only is it a topic of conversation around here, but it’s blaring from posters in the subway and elsewhere.

        The question no one can answer, though, is this: what will really change? One thing I heard is that the heads of the delegaciones will now become mayors officially. But that doesn’t strike me as any real change. But I guess I’ll see.

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        1. Kim: You heard right. The delegation chiefs will become mayors, and I suppose each delegation will be run like a small town. It was, to a degree, that way before. I think the major change is that the federal government is not running the city as before. Only time will reveal the actual changes on a practical level. Gonna be interesting.

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          1. I had the discussion with a Mexican guy at a party and I explained that in DC, the city has very little autonomy, and that if it were to become a state, it would be more in charge of its destiny, and have representation in congress to boot. But he didn’t think the DF to Mexico City State transition would be as significant. That said, the only thing he could come up with was the thing about the delegation chiefs becoming mayors. I’ve always had the sense that DF more or less charted its own course, but I guess we’ll see.

            Meanwhile, you’d better get your escrituras on your DF apartment before the whole government loses track of everything that happened more than two weeks ago.

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