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.
* 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.